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Tourism: Is Barcelona Being Robbed of its Soul?

tourists-entering-buildingMaria, with her daughter Anna by her side, last week had to abandon the Barcelona city centre apartment she had rented for 15 years.

The landlord forced her to leave. The reason: he could make more money from renting the apartment to tourists.

It wasn’t just Maria who was impacted. At this address, Doctor Joaquim Pou 4, some 22 other apartments in the same building have been cleared over the past year.

One day she arrived home and her mailbox had been removed, and those of her neighbours. Then, the landlord stopped cleaning the stairs. Then, the lift stopped working and wasn’t repaired. And so it continued. The next slap in the face – government supported – was the removal of 370 parking spaces for local residents in the vicinity.

Landlords have six years from the first instance of a tourist apartment opening in a building to clear the entire building of existing residents to make way for these apartment types, known locally as “habitatges d’us turistic” (HUT).

Apartments are just the preliminary step, once apartments are established and the whole building cleared of residents within six years, it leads to the opportunity for the landlord to open a hotel in the property.

Doctor Joaquim Pou 4 dovetails with the buildings next door, Doctor Joaquim Pou 2 and Carrer Copons 7. The buildings will be combined into one and from its shell will be built a hotel. All businesses on the ground floor of the buildings are being shuttered. That includes a tobacco shop, a famed local Italian restaurant, a wine shop and a bar. Opening instead on the ground floor is a tourist agency – Panay Tours – closely associated with rental of the tourist apartments.

This activity is supported by the local government. In fact the government is actively supporting this development, and the development of exclusive luxury apartments, services and docking facilities at Barcelona’s Port, which will change the very face of the historic Barceloneta district.

The local life of the city is being driven from its centre and pushed to the suburbs. With more tourists and less locals in the centre, the local traditional services are being driven out and replaced with higher cost tourist services, chain stores and yellow pack international brands. Prices increase for all. Culture is stifled. Big business wins. The city dies.

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