In a month of high season, up to 400,000 cruise passengers can arrive in Barcelona. These figures generate “neighbourhood concern about contamination and tourist overcrowding”, assured the mayor of the city, Ada Colau. Tourism and its consequences are the fifth most frequent concern among citizens, which is why Colau has summoned the various responsible administrations to “address the need to regulate cruise activity”.
The large cruise ships return to Barcelona but the number of passengers does not recover from the pandemic
This was stated by the mayor in an appearance after the first meeting of the study table on the regulation of cruise ships, in which the City Council, the Generalitat, the Ministry of Transport and the Port of Barcelona participated, all administrations competent in this area. The first agreement reached at this table is to set up a working group that will update the data on cruise activity, since the available figures come from the different administrations involved in the management.
Based on this diagnosis, which is expected before the end of the year, proposals will be drawn up to address the situation of the Port of Barcelona, the first in Spain and the fourth in the world in terms of visitor arrivals. For its part, and despite not yet having the figures, the City Council has announced that it will propose to the study table addressing the possibility of halving the number of cruise passengers arriving in the city during the high season (from May to October ).
To achieve this, Colau has opened the door to various options. The first would be to follow in the footsteps of the port of Palma, which has limited the number of cruise ships that dock daily to three. Another way would be to reduce the number of people traveling on each ship. The goal, according to the mayor, is not only to reduce the number of visitors, but to space them out over time. And it is that in the so-called ‘red days’ up to 25,000 people can disembark in the capital. The aim of the consistory is that this figure never exceeds 10,000 people a day.
However, the City Council is also committed to ensuring that transit cruises (which are only in the port for a few hours) decrease to 20% compared to base cruises (those in which the ship docks for several days in the city). Currently, transit cruises represent half of the total.
In search of the pact between administrations
The proposal to halve the number of cruise passengers is an idea that the Barcelona City Council will propose to the rest of the administrations starting in September. Although the negotiations have not yet begun, the position of the Port of Barcelona is not, from the outset, favorable to Colau’s ideas. “These are figures that we cannot share because they are part of it. The model of other cities [en referencia a Palma] It is not the one we must follow, because rather than reduce the number of cruise ships, we must continue to regulate the number of terminals”, assured Damià Calvet, president of the Port.
Isidre Gavín, Secretary of Territory and Mobility of the Generalitat, agrees with Calvet and insists that “there is a lot of talk about Palma, but we have many differences. Before the Palma agreement comes the Barcelona agreement”. With this, Gavín and Calvet refer to the agreement that was signed in 2018 to regulate cruise activity and that limited the number of terminals to seven.
But that measure is, according to Ada Colau, “insufficient”, who has aimed to regulate the “volume” of the cruise ships that arrive in Barcelona in view of the fact that they are getting larger and accommodate more travelers. Similarly, the mayor highlights the need to also regulate the impact of this tourist activity, both economically and socially and environmentally. For its part, from the Generalitat they agree on the need to reduce the negative externalities of cruise activity, but they consider that the positive ones must also be valued.
“Surely there are neighbors who see the arrival of cruise passengers in Barcelona with joy and hope, especially after the two years of pandemic that we have been through,” said Gavín, who insists on the need to know the data before making decisions. They also believe it from the Port of Barcelona, where it is not clear to reduce the number of cruise ships and it is committed to reducing terminals. “But if the data tells us otherwise, we will consider other options,” Calvet assured.
All in all, Colau has insisted that tourist activity “cannot grow without limit. We are an open city, but we have to set limits”. To this statement, Calvet has insisted that we must wait for the data, because “we do not know what is the certainty behind the figures that tells us that tourism will skyrocket out of control.”
Therefore, a negotiation period is opened that is expected to have concrete proposals before the high season begins and, also, before the municipal elections are held, in May 2023.