Barcelona caresses a full house despite the political dispute over tourism

The second round of the electoral campaign is taking place with prices never seen before in hotels in Barcelona.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
23 May 2023 Tuesday 16:21
14 Reads
Barcelona caresses a full house despite the political dispute over tourism

The second round of the electoral campaign is taking place with prices never seen before in hotels in Barcelona. While the candidates continue to debate the impact of tourism on the city, congresses and concerts fill hotel rooms and apartments. The sector anticipates a record summer, and not so much because of the number of tourists but because of the high prices they are going to pay to stay overnight in the city. Yesterday, under the effect of Elton John and Coldplay, it was impossible to find a room in a three-star hotel for less than 250 euros.

Although there has not been an opportunity to discuss in depth what the future tourism model should be, the question does generate obvious discrepancies and is serving as a throwing weapon during the campaign. Between the open bar advocated by PP, Ciudadanos or Valents and the regulation defended by BComú (which claims to close two of the seven cruise terminals agreed in 2018 or announces a crusade against tourist apartments) are ERC, PSC and Junts, more inclined to better regulate the flow of tourists and thus alleviate the negative effects of their concentration in time and place.

About the importance of tourism in the city's economy – it represents between 12 and 15% of its GDP – no one argues. Another thing is the formulas to manage the activity. The Socialists, who for the last four years have held the Department of Tourism advocate a diversification of points of interest and defend the search for "quality tourism", which in fewer numbers generates the same or more economic impact. In this sense, the tourist promotion of Barcelona has been focused since the pandemic blow – which reduced activity to zero and provided the unprecedented postcard of a city with hotels closed tightly – based on thematic campaigns, promoting gastronomy , culture or valuing the tourist offer around the city as a centrifugal effect.

If the mayoress boasts of her regulatory initiative, materialized in the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodations (PEUAT) –a model that other countries are now studying–, the training of former mayor Xavier Trias does not rule out that in monumental buildings in the center, surgically and strategic, new hotels can be opened. ERC maintains that the city's economy cannot depend on tourism and demands that the collection of the tourist tax – they estimate that around 400 million during the next term – be invested in the areas of the city that suffer the most tourist pressure, read Ciutat Vella , Eixample, Sagrada Família or in the surroundings of the Carmel bunkers closed at night for a few weeks to alleviate the overcrowding in the area.

Drastic regulatory measures for some and insufficient for others, such as the Federació d'Associacions Veïnals de Barcelona, ​​which denounces the collateral effects of mass tourism and gentrification and which criticizes that the parties have not raised these days the need for a change of tourist model.

Beyond the debate, the figures speak. Between January and April, hotels have registered an occupancy rate of 77%, only three tenths of the figures for 2019 and with a significant difference: for the first time the average price of the room has been above 150 euros. Some prices that this week have climbed again. The expectations for the summer could not be more optimistic in terms of occupation. The sector is compensating for the historically weaker months for visitors with clients for congresses and events.

Precisely, yesterday, the International Association of Congresses and Conventions (ICCA) ratified the leadership of Barcelona and places the city once again as the first in number of congressmen - a position it has maintained since 2013 - and fourth in number of congresses, only behind Vienna, Lisbon and Paris and ahead of others such as Prague, Madrid, Berlin, Athens or Brussels.

According to this ranking, Barcelona is also the first non-state capital city and the first in all of Spain to have organized the most congresses during 2022, thus accumulating more than 20 years in a row in the top 5 international congresses.

This success in participation, even though there are fewer congresses than other cities, confirms the latest Turisme de Barcelona profile survey, in which more than 60% of congress attendees stated that the city chosen as the venue has a decisive influence on the decision to attend. or not to a congress.

The list, in which Barcelona has been in the top five positions for 23 years, only counts rotating international congresses between three countries and with a minimum of 50 delegates. Thus, important congresses such as Mobile or ISE are left out, which, if counted, would further strengthen the city's leadership in this sector. For this year, 40 congresses with more than a thousand delegates have already been confirmed, including the International Union of Public Transport (from June 4 to 7) or the Parkinson's World Congress (from July 4 to 6).