There has been a serious shift in the hospitality industry of Barcelona as the city voted to ban all new hotels in the historic centre. The second most popular city in Spain suffers from nearly uncontrollable growth of tourism and so it was decided to make Barcelona the first European city that prohibits the opening of all hotels in the city centre. A small area around the city centre can be used to open hotels but only to replace the closed ones. Barcelona suburbs are open for new accommodation, but the new law sets up limits for opening hotels even there.
The law also defines the region, where new hotels in Barcelona cannot be opened. The area includes Montjuic and Poblenou in the west and east respectively, and covers the majority of the Eixample and Gracia. The idea of the ban was in returning the original purpose of the streets as a promenade for locals. With time some hotels will close and will not be replaced by new ones. As the lack hotel rooms would have given rise to apartment rental market, Barcelona City Hall imposed a new law, according to which vacation apartments pay the highest property tax.
Such measures sound extreme, but they are a response to local frustration because of a large tourist volume. With only 1.6 million inhabitants, last year Barcelona was visited by 32 million visitors. Even though tourism implies a significant flow of cash, such an invasion made it harder for locals to live in the city. The majority of stores become tourist oriented and so they sell generic goods made overseas that have no connection to Barcelona and its culture. First outbreaks of public protest already happened in the city, when more than 1,000 people walked on the main promenade of the city holding banners “Barcelona is not for sale”.
Hoteliers, in their turn, say the measures won’t really change anything as millions of tourists visit the city for a day, arriving from cruise ships and beach resorts. Currently, there are 75,000 hotel rooms in Barcelona, 50,000 beds are available in vacation apartments and extra 50,000 or more places are offered through services like Airbnb.