The pandemic has hugely affected tourism-dependent countries like Spain and cities like Barcelona

Published on : Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The pandemic has massively affected tourism-dependent countries like Spain and cities like Barcelona, one of Europe’s most popular destinations. But now, these places are finding ways to attract visitors back, and they are also willing to change their economic models to deal with longstanding overcrowding problems.

“There’s a total change of strategy,” said Marian Muro, director of Turisme de Barcelona, a public-private consortium. There is a visible shift away from general promotion of the city.

The new strategy looks for tourism assets, aiming to promote the city’s local food and tech startup scene, offering travel agents training to look after Chinese visitors’ needs for attracting more high spenders from the country, along with Southeast Asia and the United States.

Barcelona has also signed a deal with Moscow for promoting long weekend trips for culture and shopping.

The city of 1.6 million last year witnessed close to 30 million visitors, including day trippers and around 14 million staying at least one night.
Before the pandemic, there was anger over soaring housing prices and concerns over tourists creating no-go areas for locals; hence, the city municipality tried measures like restricting the opening of new hotels, thereby attracting criticism from the private sector.

The impact of the virus is apparent in Barcelona’s once bustling Gothic quarter, where dozens of souvenir shops have shut down and hotels are locked with chains.

“We have gone from one extreme to another,” said Gomez from Plaça Reial, who is missing the nightly noise she used to hate: “It’s an ugly silence.”

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