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Barcelona Is Really Serious About Its War On Tourism

A new strategic plan from Mayor Ada Colau to ease the swarm of tourists in the city will raise property taxes on short-term rentals and increase costs for day trippers.

Barcelona Is Really Serious About Its War On Tourism
[Photo: Enes via Unsplash]

Barely two days after banning all new hotels from its city center, Barcelona is escalating its war on tourism. Mayor Ada Colau presented her Strategic Plan For Tourism 2020, which includes measures that she says will further curb tourism and reclaim the city for its inhabitants.

Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million, and received 32 million visitors last year. Tourism accounts for a significant chunk of the city’s economy–14%–but the ill effects on permanent residents from being such a tourist destination are starting to pile up. The tourism industry pushes out local stores in the city center to make room for bland bars and tourist-trap shopping. Employment is seasonal and casual–a serious problem in a country with an unemployment rate at around 43% for young people–and property prices keep rising, along with rental costs, making it nearly impossible for residents to find affordable housing.

The new plan’s goal is to “govern tourism,” according to El País. Colau seeks to curb the worst excesses of the industry, and tightly control those it allows to remain in place. In an effort to dampen the short-term rental market, Barcelona will now apply the highest property tax rate to vacation apartments, and the city will not provide licenses for new tourist apartments. The city council is also seeking permission from the Catalan government to regulate room rentals in non-hotel accommodations, like bed and breakfasts, which would allow the city to dictate how many rooms are available per floor, or for how much of the year those rooms could be rented out.

[Photo: JanHetman/iStock]

Sleepover tourism, however, is not the only target of the Strategic Plan: New measures will also ramp up charges for day trippers, making Barcelona less attractive as a cheap tourist destination. This will mostly be accomplished through indirect means: A test scheme, for instance, will raise the parking rates for tourist buses stopping at the Montjuïc fountains–a major traffic hotspot as well as tourist hellhole–from €4.50 to €34 ($4.80 to $36). That, in turn, will likely hike the cost for people on the buses.

Other measures will affect residents more directly: There are plans to limit the use of Segways and electric scooters in the more touristic parts of the city (they are on the seafront), to pedestrianize certain hotspots on the busiest days, and to relocate the terraces of bars and restaurants, which often take over public spaces.

Taken together, it’s obvious that Barcelona is serious about curbing tourism, and instead focusing on an economy that can create greater benefit for its local residents. The tourism sector isn’t happy, of course, but the industry relies on growth and invasion at the expense of local culture. Tourism may be a big money maker, but it has minimal benefits for the majority of citizens.

About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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