Barcelona fights against the revival of mass tourism


Barcelona city beach

Excerpt from the Guardian

As visitors return following the easing of Covid curbs, talk of diversifying the Spanish town has been drowned out by the sound of crates ringing

“Barcelona is for sale but not to the people who live there,” says Silvia Mateu, who has lived in the beachfront neighborhood of Barceloneta for 47 of her 61 years.

For two years, Barcelona suffered a forced experience caused by the Covid pandemic. The number of visitors, which was close to 30 million, suddenly fell to zero.

For many citizens, the drain was a blessed relief as they rediscovered parts of the city that had been rendered off-limits by mass tourism.

But at the same time, dozens of bars, restaurants and shops closed, sparking a long-overdue debate about the need to diversify the economy.

The city has been successful in attracting startups, especially in tech industries, who view the city on Spain’s Mediterranean coast as a cheaper and more attractive option than Paris or Berlin. However, since the return of tourists at Easter, discussions of diversification have been drowned out by the noise of checkouts.

The hospitality sector, which has suffered more and longer than any other during the pandemic, is understandably delighted. Businesses that have survived the shutdowns are charting a course out of the debt they have incurred. But not everyone is happy.

“We don’t want life to be like during the pandemic, but it also gave us the opportunity to see that there were other possibilities without massive tourism,” says Martí Cusó, who lives in the Gothic Quarter. , the busiest tourist area of ​​the city. .

“My neighborhood is so saturated with tourists that it’s impossible to meet anyone on the street or children playing or even getting a good night’s sleep,” he says. “These two years of pandemic have been tough but it is also a missed opportunity to rethink the city.”

Jordi Rabassa, the councilor for the Ciutat Vella district, which encompasses the Gothic Quarter, agrees.

“We have not done what was necessary to bring about a deep and real change to the economic model,” he recently told the elDiario.es news site.

“I pleaded for a more localized economy, but I swam against the tide. We must work to ensure that the last two years are not just a mirage.

Fermín Villar is president of the Friends of La Rambla, a tree-lined pedestrian street synonymous with mass tourism.

“You can’t fix Barcelona without fixing La Rambla,” he says, pointing out that the majority of shops and bars simply don’t cater to residents. “We can’t tell a bar the price of a beer, but without the cooperation of the private sector, we can’t do much,” he says.

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