Tourism in Barcelona: a concern even for the European Tourist Industry
City is becoming a ‘victim of its own success’, warns Brussels lobby
City is becoming a ‘victim of its own success’, warns Brussels lobby
Thousands of people take to streets of Catalan capital in celebration of all things rainbow
The City Council of the Catalan capital has announced it will remit 80% of the fine on tourist apartments with no licence located in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella district if the owners put the property up for social housing rent for a minimum of 3 years. Once this period is over, the owner will be able to extend the social rent or pay the remaining 20% of the fine. The City Council explained that the initiative is "a pilot test" in order "to start changing the city's tourist model", as tourists are too concentrated in some areas. This has created some friction with locals, mostly due to some visitors' wild street parties and to the rise in rent prices, as many properties have been transformed into tourist rentals, quite often without a licence. In this vein, the City Council will ask digital platforms such as Airbnb for the identification data of all their rentals in Barcelona. These platforms will be fined for each illegal flat on offer or if they refuse to issue the requested list.
The Catalan Government has presented a decree, pending approval "in the coming months," that will regulate up to eight types of tourist accommodations, including new types that until now were not contemplated by the law, like motorhome areas, casual Bed & Breakfasts and informal rentals. The decree is an effort to quell the rapid expansion of tourist accommodations in newer platforms – like the Internet service Airbnb – and bring already-existing establishments under control. The Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, Felip Puig, said all establishments must be registered. For Bed&Breakfasts and Airbnb rentals (or similar platforms) its users must pay a tourist tax of 0.65€ in Barcelona and 0.45€ in the rest of Catalonia. In addition, the City Councils will determine which areas can be used for placement of accommodations.
B-Travel is a Barcelona-based tourism show bringing together some 215 exhibitors from across the industry and more than 50 different destinations. The event, one of the most important of its kind in Europe, kicked off on Friday at Fira de Barcelona's Montjuïc venue, taking over Catalonia's International Tourism Fair after 23 years. Conceived as a new meeting point for travellers and tourism companies seeking enriched customer experiences, it aims at tailoring the tourist offering to each visitor's needs. This year, attendees can sign up to the B- Travel Internet Community upon their arrival and receive customised information on the vast array of tourism offers on display, focusing on specific types of tourism such as cultural, gastronomic, shopping, rural, and adventure sports, among others.
Cirque du Soleil will be performing in PortAventura at least until 2020, the popular family resort and theme park on the Costa Daurada (Catalan for the Golden Coast) in Tarragona, southern Catalonia. The five-year partnership was announced this week, after last season’s success. The internationally renowned Canadian performance troop made their debut at the Catalan theme-park last summer, with their show ´Koozo´ in July and August. Following its success they decided to base their summer productions there until 2020. In 2015 they will perform ´Amaluna´, a show that combines a coming-of-age tale with a love story. The show will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the theme park, one of the most popular family destinations in Europe.
On Monday, the 'World Travel Market' (WTM) opened in London and Catalonia is participating with a 300 m2 exhibition stand promoting a variety of its tourist destinations and highlighting its uniqueness with areas as diverse as the city of Barcelona, the Costa Brava and the Penedès wine region. The WTM is highly important in the tourism and travel industry, and represents a crucial opportunity for business networking and attractive investment. Catalonia’s participation strengthens its growing importance as a holiday destination for British tourists, who have increased by 4% and represent revenue of €1 billion in the first 10 months of 2014, the second largest after the French. Through the event, Catalan companies will mix with 5,000 other organizations from 200 countries, with an estimated 50,000 professionals from the industry participating.
The Spanish Airport Authority (AENA) has announced that this coming winter season over 8.4 million seats will be on offer on flights out of Barcelona El Prat Airport, an increase of 6.8% compared to last year. Seats on intercontinental destinations have increased by 13.6% over last year. The number of flight operations (take-offs and landings) is anticipated to be 47,000: an increase of 4.1% to 2013. In contrast, the airport of Girona Costa Brava (northern Catalonia) has announced it will offer 16 routes this winter season, 20% less than last year. Ryanair has implemented the cuts it announced last May and will no longer be connecting Girona to London or Paris. Ryanair and Wizz Air will be the only airlines flying from Girona to Kiev, and only Ten Airwais will operate charter flights to Nador, Morocco. This summer, Girona airport connected passengers to 69 destinations.
Barcelona is the 4th most visited city in Europe and the 16th in the world, welcoming 8 million tourists each year. It is acknowledged to be Spain's industrial hub where international trade fairs and conferences are being held. In addition, it is one of the top destinations among Erasmus students and the main cruise ship harbour in Europe. However, thanks to cheap airlines, Barcelona has also developed a reputation for low-cost tourism that often focuses on holidays of beach, booze and partying. On the one hand, this shows the young and fun atmosphere of the city and contributes significantly to the economy. On the other hand, according to locals, the so-called ''drunken tourism'' tarnishes Barcelona's reputation and has negative impacts. The City Council aims to control this kind of tourism and is currently attempting to introduce stricter regulations for holiday rent apartments. It has already banned land-based bar crawls around the city and wants to ensure the legality of alcohol-based boat trips as it does not have control over the city's waters.
This week, the Port of Barcelona has become the world cruise capital, hosting the Seatrade Med 3000, an international conference bringing together 3,000 professionals from the all around the world. It is the leading conference in the field of Mediterranean cruise and is taking place between the 16th and 18th of September. This adds to Barcelona’s existing reputation as the European and Mediterranean cruise capital, confirmed with the arrival last Saturday of the world’s largest cruise liner, the Oasis of the Seas, whose first stop after leaving the Caribbean was the Catalan city. Home both to the Oasis of the Seas and the international Seatrade Med 3000 means Barcelona is making nautical headlines worldwide.
Barcelona has become one of the main European tourist destinations and, probably, the hottest low-cost tourism hub. It attracts millions of foreigners each year, many of whom show up in the city mainly for the beach and partying. The Barceloneta neighbourhood is one of several hotspots affected most severly by the tourism boom. It is near the beach and has become the preferred housing spot for holidaymakers. However, some visitors' unruly attitudes on the street – such as urinating, getting fully naked or singing loudly – have become a problem. Several neighbourhood protests against the so-called "drunken tourism" and illegal holiday apartments have been held in the past two weeks in the Barceloneta area. As a response, the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, declared ''war'' on the illegal tourist accommodation and promised to bring an end to the disturbances caused by wild tourism. As a start, the City Council has begun to shut down tourist flats without license.
International tourists spent €5.986 billion in Catalonia during the first six months of the year. This represents a 3.9% increase on the same period of 2013. Furthermore, it is also 22.7% of the total foreign tourist expenditure in Spain for this period. Catalonia is the second Autonomous Community where foreign visitors spent more money during the first half of 2014. The Canaries came first with an expenditure of €6.069 billion. However, both the tourist expenditure in Catalonia per stay and per day in the first half of 2014 fell in comparison with the same period in 2013. Foreign tourists spent €840 per stay (2.6% less than in 2013) and €129 per day (-1.4%). Catalonia is also the area where international tourists spent more money during June, reaching €1.551 billion. This represents 0.2% less than in June 2013, but 24.9% of the total foreign tourist expenditure in Spain that month.
For the first time ever, over 7.5 million tourists stayed in one of Barcelona’s hotels in 2013. More specifically, the Catalan capital welcomed 7.571,766 visitors in its hotel rooms last year, meaning a 1.77% increase on 2012, when Barcelona’s hotels accounted for 7.440,113 guests. 80% of visitors are foreigners, mainly from France, the UK and the US. Besides, this increase in the number of hotel guests is not the only record achieved last year. Indeed, the number of overnight stays has also reached an unprecedented number, with almost 16.5 million overnight stays registered in 2013, a 3.4% growth on 2012 figures.