What effect have October events had on Catalan commerce?

Hotel reservations and commercial sales have dropped, but the maritime industry continues to thrive

One euro coins (by ACN)
One euro coins (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 16, 2017 02:21 PM

The Passeig de Gràcia, one of the main shopping high streets in the centre of Barcelona, has seen a 20 to 30% fall in sales in October, and hotel reservations have also suffered, according to experts in each respective industry.

The president of the Passeig de Gràcia Association, Lluís Sans, has said that it was a “complicated” month because of the ongoing political situation and protests. He went as far as to say that these were the main causes for the decrease in October sales, thanking ANC and Òmnium Cultural for organizing last Saturday’s protest in Carrer Marina, thus keeping Passeig de Gràcia easily accessible for shoppers.

Although he said that tourists who had already planned their trips to Barcelona went shopping anyway, the coming months would see a “slowdown in tourist demand.”

He affirmed that the “events in October” had a more damaging effect on establishments in the centre of the city compared to the aftermath of the August 17 terrorist attacks. “There was a momentary fall in the last week of August,” he said. “When people are sad they do not feel like buying.” In September, there was a “recovery”, but this was dashed in October.  

The most expensive commercial rent in Spain

Another major shopping street in Barcelona, the Portal de l’Angel, continues to be the most expensive in Spain in terms of commercial rent, costing 3,360 euros per square meter, 60 euros more than last year. It ranked fourteenth compared to the most expensive streets in the world, after streets such as New York’s Fifth Avenue, Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay, and London’s Bond Street.

The second most expensive street in Barcelona, and third in Spain as a whole, is Passeig de Gràcia, with an average rent price of 3,060 euros per m2. The third is Pelai (2,100 euros / m2), followed by Portaferrissa (1,980 euros / m2) and Rambla Catalunya (1,260 euros / m2), all important shopping hubs in the centre.

How have recent events affected the hotel industry?

Turnover in October fell by 13% in Barcelona, according to Jordi Clos, the president of the Barcelona hoteliers association, el Gremi d’Hotels de Barcelona.  

Clos warned that the data was “very worrying,” attributing the main cause to the political tensions between Catalonia and Spain. He also said that the August attacks, the strike at Barcelona airport, as well as “vandalism” against the tourism sector had had an effect to a lesser extent.

"This situation blocks investments in the tourism sector, creates tensions in the treasury and causes companies to reduce their structure," said the president of the hotel association about the decline in turnover.

He regretted that November is suffering "the same symptoms" as October, and that trend seems set to continue throughout December and the first quarter of 2018. As an example, Clos noted that there had been a 40% decrease in reservations for New Year’s Eve, compared to 2016.

In order to reverse this current situation, Clos has announced a campaign to “relaunch” the Barcelona brand, asking administrations to double investment in promotion using revenues from the tourist tax currently allocated for other purposes.

The maritime industry continues to thrive

Despite these negative tendencies becoming apparent in the shopping and hotel industries as a result of ongoing political uncertainty, among other events, ports in Catalonia have reported increase in productivity.

The Port of Barcelona, for example, has maintained and elevated growth rate in 2017, has noted that container traffic in October was up by 31% compared to last year.

In fact, the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona are among the top three ports that have grown the most in Spain as a whole in the first three quarters of the year, with Barcelona coming in first, and Tarragona third.

Calls for next Catalan government to “prioritize” governability

The board of directors of Pimec, the association of small and medium-sized businesses in Catalonia have pointed out that the current situation of instability and uncertainty is affecting the economy. They said that this therefore forces the emerging victors of the December 21 elections to “prioritize” governance while simultaneously negotiating the connection between Spain and Catalonia.

They also criticized the “negative effects of the institutional paralysis of the Generalitat" due to the application of Article 155, for the dismissal of the MPs and senior officials, as well as the previous financial intervention in Catalan finances, demanding that it be “immediately lifted.”