Barcelona approves new tourist accomodation cap

Barcelona City Council (Ajuntament) has approved a radical new law which will regulate the amount of accommodation made available to tourists through rental apartments and hotels in the city, in an effort to crack down on excessive tourism.

Barcelona approves new tourist accomodation cap
La Rambla is one of Barcelona's busiest tourist streets. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr Creative Commons

Tourism in Barcelona first started to take off after the city hosted the Olympic Games in 1992 and has been booming ever since. Since 2005 the number of annual visitors to the city has consistently exceeded the 5.37 million residents in the greater metropolitan area, and it has been growing steadily in the last six years in particular.

But with the constant stream of visitors comes strain on housing and tension. Proponents say that the new law, the special urban plan for tourist accommodation (Peuat), will bring about much needed regulation in Barcelona's tourism industry, but critics argue it will stifle the creation of jobs and hinder economic growth.

It is hoped that the plan will reduce pressure on the neighbourhoods of the Catalan capital which are most densely populated, creating a sustainable model of tourism which guarantees citizens the right to housing and quality public space.

In order to distribute tourist accommodation more evenly across the city than at present, zones will be set up with different rules for the amount of tourist accommodation permitted there.

In the case of zone one, which includes central districts like the Old Town, sections of l'Eixample and Poble-sec, no new tourist accommodation will be allowed to open, nor can any accommodation which closes be replaced by rental space for tourists.

In zone two, which includes Sagrada Família and Poblenou, tourist accommodation which closes can be replaced, but only by the same amount, ensuring there is no growth in tourist space in the area.

In zone three on the periphery of the city, the construction of new tourist accommodation will be permitted as well as expanding previous accommodation so long as a specified overall maximum density of places is adhered to.

The plan, which is not expected to take effect until 2019, has been criticized by tourism industry organizations in the city such as the Barcelona Hotel Association and the Council of Trade, Service and Tourism associations, who published an open letter warning that it could have dire consequences.

They argue that one result of the move could be a flood of legal action against the local administration. “It will be very difficult to found the kind of responsible, serious and intelligent management a tourism phenomenon as potent and powerful as Barcelona's based on an agreement as artificial as this,” their letter says.

In the City Council's municipal plenary session on Friday the Peuat was voted through by councillors from minority ruling party Barcelona en Comú, as well as the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) and Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

Convergence and Union (CiU), the Citizens Party (Ciutadans) and Peoples' Party (PP) voted against, while the Popularity Unity Candidacy (CUP) abstained.