According to the Barcelona Hotel Guild, the city’s hotel occupancy rate reached nearly 85% during this period, a level above industry expectations and close to the level it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Some economic lobbies want to get back to that level, and we’re getting closer and closer to it,” regrets Marti Couso, a member of the Gothic Quarterly Association, recalling his “shock” at the strong resurgence of cruise “mass tourism” after two years of the health crisis.
The 32-year-old biology professor, who was born in the historic heart of Barcelona, lives in one of the most visited areas of the city. He says he was impressed by the calm of medieval streets, which tour operators usually sweep over, after the staggering drop in tourists, by 76.8% in 2020.
“Immediately people took back the squares, and the children started playing in the street again, we found ourselves,” said the 30-year-old, without denying the difficulties caused by the collapse of tourism that had previously accounted for the epidemic about 15% of the GDP of the second city. In Spain, it has a population of 1.6 million.
He asserts that the epidemic “has proven that economic monoculture based on tourism generates a lot of instability.” “The majority of locals who worked in tourism found themselves out of work overnight.”
lost time ?
The crisis came as Barcelona just had a record 12 million visitors in 2019, not counting the millions of cruise passengers and tourists staying outside the city or in apartments without permits.
A concern for residents who, in 2017, in a survey organized by the municipality, identified tourism as the main problem for the city.
“We need to change the paradigm to reconcile the two worlds: we cannot make the tourist bubble city on one side and the city of local residents on the other,” believes Francesc Muñoz, director of the Urbanization Observatory in the autonomous community. University of Barcelona.
Faced with an influx of visitors once again strolling the famous Ramblas and drinking sangria on café terraces, as prices have exploded, Town Hall — which has already taken action in the past to limit residential tourism rentals — is considering new measures. Thus, access to the busiest squares can be restricted and the movement of tourist buses can be further supervised.
“Tourism is an important economic, social and cultural asset for Barcelona,” but it leads to “problems of coexistence,” acknowledges Xavier Marci, the city council member responsible for tourism. “What is needed is to improve benefits and control harm. This is a debate in which all European cities participate.”
However, many residents criticize the city for not taking advantage of the health crisis to reformulate its tourism model. “These two years have not been wasted. It is very difficult to solve the problems of tourism in the absence of it,” defends Mr. Marcet.
On the sunny Barcelona Cathedral Square in the Gothic Quarter, Eva Marti says she understands the concerns of local residents, but thinks it is necessary to find a formula to maintain a business that many Barcelona residents depend on.
A few months ago, this 51-year-old woman was finally able to resume her work as a guide in German and Italian, after a “very difficult” year caused by the pandemic. But she is now concerned about the potential consequences of the new restrictions on her business.
“In my 13 years with my guide, it has become more and more difficult to introduce tourists around town,” she explains, referring to regulations that, for example, prevent groups from stopping in certain areas. 15 people.
She believes that “we have to find a balance”, as she speeds up to resume a visit she is organizing for a group who have come to discover the city center from a cruise ship anchored in the port.