Last weekend, a record-breaking 60,000 cruise ship passengers disembarked into the popular Spanish city. But despite generating investment and jobs, these staggering numbers are at odds with Barcelona mayor Ada Colau’s vow to cap the amount of tourists who inundate the city each year.
Last weekend, a staggering 60,000 tourists entered Barcelona by sea, shattering the city’s previous record. This is a number that the president of Barcelona Port, Sixte Cambra, wants to see increase. It was reported that last year cruise ship passengers alone spent about $900 million, creating an estimated 7,000 permanent jobs in the city. “The report shows that the cruise sector generates investment and jobs and is an activity that creates growth and stability,” says Cambra. This is why, despite the opposition from the mayor, Barcelona Port hopes to expand in order to accommodate even more of these ships.
However, not everyone is as excited about these numbers as Cambra is, specifically newly-elected mayor Ada Colau, who got attention during her campaign by proposing to impose a tourism cap on the city. Colau and many others feel that the city’s beaches, streets, and popular neighborhoods like the Gothic Quarter are at risk of being oversaturated by tourists, many of whom disgorge from the massive cruise ships that make Barcelona a popular port of call. “If we don’t want to end up like Venice, we will have to put some kind of limit in Barcelona,” she says. However, those benefiting from the surge in tourism (the city’s tourism numbers doubled in the last decade) do not share in Colau’s concerns and would like to see these numbers grow even more. One advantage of welcoming cruise passengers is that most are embarking in the city for a day before returning to their ships at night, meaning that the city’s already-packed hotels won’t have to take on any additional guests.
At a time when Europe’s economy is still struggling to get going, it’s hard to turn away easy money and jobs, but at what point does the impact on the local way of life become too much? This is a question that both sides of the argument in Europe’s third most-visited city will have to address as they try to find a manageable balance.