Barcelona’s Mayor Threatens to Limit Number of Tourists Allowed in City

The city's mayor wants to cut cruise ships and limit Barcelona's airport expansion

Barcelona tourism
Barcelona has a major over-tourism problem. (Courtesy Dreammaker)
By Ariel Scotti / July 15, 2019 12:07 pm

Tourists looking to visit Barcelona might need to adjust their travel plans if the mayor has her way.

The controversial leader of the city, Ada Colau, would like to cut the number of cruise ships that dock in Barcelona and impose a limit on the expansion of the airport. Colau is straddling the line between fighting for local communities against the over-tourism that’s allegedly “destroying their fabric” and allowing enough foreigners in to keep the economy working for citizens.

“There’s a sense that Barcelona could risk losing its soul. We need to seek a fair balance between the best version of globalisation, and keeping the character, identity and life of the city,” Colau said in 2014, according to Forbes. “This is what makes it attractive — it is not a monumental city, and it is not a world capital like Paris — its main feature is precisely its life, its plurality, its Mediterranean diversity. We want visitors to get to know the real Barcelona, not a ‘Barcelona theme park’ full of McDonald’s and souvenirs, without any real identity.”

And while some may disagree with pushing visitors and their vacation money out of the city, Colau isn’t wrong about the issue of overcrowding. The number of tourists staying overnight in the capitol increased from 1.7 million in 1990 to more than 8 million in 2008, according to The Guardian. Add to that the fact that many of the city’s most popular attractions, like Sagrada Familia, are in residential neighborhoods in a small city that doesn’t have the room to expand, as Forbes noted, and Colau’s case strengthens.

Barcelona’s limited number of residential homes is a problem, too, especially as more house and apartment owners buy up real estate in order to list it on AirBnb. The city’s council has taken note of the vast number of people coming into the city and declared an environmental emergency last week, effectively limiting the number of vehicles that can drive around the city and further pollute its air. The city was named the most polluted port in in all of Europe last month.

The Mediterranean hub isn’t the only major vacation destination that’s looking to scale back on tourism. Venice is also dealing with the social and environmental hazards of overcrowding and is making a push to drastically limit the number of visitors swarming its grand canals.

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