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Barcelona’s mayor-elect wants city spared from tourist hordes

Barcelona has become the 12th most popular tourist destination worldwide. (Antonio Gil/flickr/cc)

Barcelona Mayor-elect Ada Colau has a message for the 7.6 million tourists expected to visit this year: Stay home or go elsewhere. Carol Matlack reports for Bloomberg that the incoming mayor worries that a tourism surge is making life unbearable for the city’s 1.7 million inhabitants.

The capital of Spain’s Catalonia region is the third most popular destination in Europe after London and Paris and 12th worldwide, the article says. Vendors at the city’s markets grumble about picture-snapping travelers. Tens of thousands of cruise passengers crowd sidewalks but spend little since they eat and sleep on the ship. A 2014 documentary warned that the city risks becoming a Venice-style theme park.

Colau wants to ban new hotel rooms, limit cruise ship arrivals and even regulate souvenir sales, but the tourists will likely keep coming. Popular among trendsetters, Barcelona is “on the map of cool cities,” Matlack emphasizes. Visitors drawn by attractions such as Antonin Gaudi’s unfinished La Sagrada Familia church spend an estimated US$ 13.9 billion annually. They also keep about 100,000 employed. As a result, most residents support tourism. 

In March, Citiscope reported on Amsterdam’s approach to a crush of tourists. Rather than telling tourists to go away, Amsterdam is trying to steer them to unvisited neighborhoods and areas outside the city that could use the visitors and extra income.


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