Labour precarity in the visitor economy and decisions to move out

Abstract

This article examines social disadvantage in tourist sites through the lens of labour geography by focusing on the residential trajectories of a sample of workers in Barcelona (N = 8,651) over a decade (2008–2019). Contrasting with the common view that tourism growth brings prosperity to local communities, it suggests instead that buoyant destinations may be prone to leaving their workforces behind. Path analysis modelling reveals that tourism sector workers are at a higher risk of residential displacement. Our analysis unearths stratifications in such results, pointing to different tactics to cope with housing market pressure depending on sex, age, and nationality. Residential displacement and the self-imposed devaluation of housing conditions are introduced in this paper as key avenues leading to social exclusion. In this sense, we contribute to the concern of critical tourism geographies with the inequality and disadvantage ingrained in tourist space production, bridging to the domain of labour geography and social mobility. The city of Barcelona offers a template for other urban contexts that have been reliant on tourism as a major driver of economic growth in recent decades. Following the call for closer attention to labour in the debate on transitions to sustainability in tourism, our results hint at future research avenues that extend their interpretation.

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