Barcelona hopes at­tacks won’t dent ap­peal Spain’s tourism mag­net

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL - AFP

Atourist mag­net in Spain, adored for its beaches and ar­chi­tec­ture, Barcelona is work­ing to re­as­sure fu­ture visi­tors in the hope that the re­cent bloody ram­page won’t im­pact a key sec­tor for its econ­omy.

Rooms are scarce and prices are sky-high next week due to the ex­pected ar­rivals of some 30,000 doc­tors for a car­di­ol­ogy congress on Au­gust 26-30.

The tourism sec­tor sees the event as its first test since the twin ve­hi­cle at­tacks car­ried out in Barcelona and the nearby sea­side re­sort of Cam­brils that killed 15 peo­ple and wounded more than 120.

“There’s some anx­i­ety be­cause [the at­tacks] are ob­vi­ously not a pos­i­tive point,” said Jose Luis Zoreda, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent at in­dus­try lobby group Ex­cel­tur.

But he said he did not ex­pect “any catas­tro­phe” for the sec­tor.

The at­tacks claimed by the Is­lamic State group came in the peak tourist sea­son. Nine of those killed were tourists and the in­jured in­clude peo­ple from 35 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties.

Last year the Mediter­ranean city’s 1.6 mil­lion res­i­dents were heav­ily out­num­bered by an es­ti­mated 30 mil­lion visi­tors, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of them day-trip­pers.

Some nine mil­lion peo­ple stayed in city’s over 400 ho­tels last year.

The tourism sec­tor ac­counts for 1214 per­cent of the city’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Barcelona’s suc­cess in draw­ing visi­tors has sparked a back­lash from lo­cals in some ar­eas who com­plain that crowds of drunken, rowdy tourists packed into cheap rental prop­er­ties have been mak­ing their lives hell and driven up prices.

Tourism was per­ceived as Barcelona’s big­gest prob­lem ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey car­ried out by the city coun­cil. Now the prob­lem could be los­ing tourists.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Co­lau held an emer­gency meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the city’s tourism sec­tor on Tues­day.

‘Used to these events’

The three-star Rialto ho­tel in Barcelona’s Gothic quar­ter lo­cated about 100 me­ters from the spot on Las Ram­blas where the van used to mow down pedes­tri­ans came to a stop, re­ceived just five can­cel­la­tions after the at­tack.

“There were very few can­cel­la­tions and they were from peo­ple who were com­ing to spend just one night. Longterm book­ings have re­mained,” said the ho­tel’s front desk man­ager, Vi­cente Ro­driguez, 54.

At the five-star W Barcelona ho­tel, whose sail-like struc­ture dom­i­nates the city’s seafront, also had a few can­cel­la­tions but book­ings have “sta­bi­lized in re­cent hours,” said the ho­tel’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, Stijn Oyen.

The Span­ish Union of Travel Agen­cies said there were no sig­nif­i­cant can­cel­la­tions for Barcelona and pas­sen­gers were not chang­ing their plans be­cause of the at­tacks.

“What may hap­pen is that peo­ple who planned to go to Barcelona may wait a bit be­fore go­ing,” the body’s vice-pres­i­dent, Jose Luis Men­dez, said.

The Barcelona As­so­ci­a­tion of Tourist Apart­ments (Apar­tur) has not no­ticed

de­mand cool­ing down.

“The pace of reser­va­tions has re­mained the same. We even con­tin­ued to re­ceive book­ings on the night of the at­tack,” its pres­i­dent, En­rique Al­can­tara, said.

“My con­clu­sion, even though it is sad, is that we are used to these type of events.”

‘Very quiet’

On Las Ram­blas, among the flow of tourists and lo­cals, Falko Wiecle­mann, a 49-year-old Ger­man pro­fes­sor looked on with his wife and daugh­ter at the flow­ers, can­dles and mes­sages left in honor of the vic­tims.

They ar­rived on Satur­day, two days after the at­tack, for a week­long hol­i­day.

“We feel safe, it was an iso­lated act. We came from Ber­lin, the same thing hap­pened there. Life has to go on,” he said.

On the same day Chun Jin­won and her part­ner ar­rived from South Korea.

“I heard about the at­tack the day be­fore I left and I got scared. I thought about if I should travel or not, but I had planned it two months ago and here I am,” the 38-year-old house­wife said.

Restau­rants, how­ever, have no­ticed a fall in rev­enues which they hope will be tem­po­rary.

At the La Tramoia restau­rant in Plaza Catalunya, just be­side Las Ram­blas, turnover has fallen by around a third since the at­tack.

It used to make 8,000-10,000 euros ($9,500-12,000) per day, but now takes in less than 6,000 euros, said its di­rec­tor David Ser­rat.

“Ev­ery­thing is very quiet. Peo­ple are scared and they don’t want to sit on the ter­race. On Fri­day we had reser­va­tions for 40 peo­ple and they all can­celed,” he added.

“I think Barcelona will bounce back. Maybe not to the same level as be­fore, be­cause we are hav­ing a record year... But the im­pact won’t be as dra­matic as it has been these days,” he added.

Pho­tos: IC

Clock­wise from top left: Gaudí’s mul­ti­col­ored mosaic sala­man­der at the main en­trance of Park Güell The Sagrada Família The Barceloneta beach of Barcelona Park Güell

Top: Casa Milà Left: A bowl of seafood rice

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