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TOURISM

Barcelona to hand out €3,000 fines to tour guides with groups of more than 15

Barcelona City Council has approved new rules to limit the size of tour groups in the Old Town to just 15 people, in a bid to stop the overcrowding caused by tourists in the Catalan capital's city centre.

Barcelona tourists
Tour group sizes in Barcelona's Old Town will be limited to 15. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

The Old Town or Ciutat Vella is one of the most-visited areas of Barcelona and includes well-known tourist areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and El Born. Here, it’s not uncommon to see large tour groups, blocking up the narrow streets and stopping the flow of pedestrians.

The new restrictions were announced by the councillor of the Ciutat Vella district, Jordi Rabassa, and the councillor for Tourism and Creative Industries, Xavier Marcé and are to be put on public display to ensure all potential disagreements can be solved before the rules come into force, which could be as early as the end of July 2022.

While groups will be limited to 15 people within the Ciutat Vella, in the city’s other neighbourhoods, where streets are slightly wider and it’s not so crowded, up to 30 people will be allowed per group.

Barcelona City Council has also introduced restrictions on the number of tour groups that can enter certain areas at one time. For example, a maximum of eight tour groups will be allowed in the central Plaça Sant Jaume, where the Ayuntamiento is located, five groups will be permitted to enter the colonnaded Plaça Reial, while a limit of three groups can visit the squares around the old Santa María del Mar church in El Born.

This restriction will affect 13 different areas throughout the city.

The new rules will also introduce 24 one-way pedestrianised areas, where the concentration of tourists is even greater, in a bid to stop a bottleneck of people.

The aim is to make sure that streets are not clogged up by tourists, preventing locals from going about their daily life and accessing areas where they live, work, socialise and run errands. 

Those tour guides who do not comply with the new rules will be faced with fines of between €1,500 and €3,000.

Other rules which will apply to tour groups across the whole city include banning the use of megaphones and making sure that at least 50 percent of the street is left free for others to use.

Barcelona suffered from over-tourism before the Covid-19 pandemic began and in 2019 received a record number of visitors of almost 12 million. This summer has seen a huge increase in tourists after numbers dropped dramatically in 2020 and 2021, and hotel occupation is already at 100 percent for July and August. 

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FOOTBALL

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy a cheap and boozy World Cup

Wales supporters have flocked to the Spanish island of Tenerife to support their team in the World Cup instead of Qatar after a fan suggested the idea in a tweet that went viral. Unfortunately, there have already been some drunken excesses.

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy a cheap and boozy World Cup

When Wales qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1958 in June, Bethany Evans, 25, looked in to going to Qatar but was put off by the steep cost and strict restrictions on alcohol.

So she suggested Tenerife as an alternative on Twitter “as a joke” and the idea snowballed, with the post re-tweeted over 200 times and some 2,500 fellow Wales fans reaching out to say they would join her.

“I really thought it was just going to be me and a few friends, so this is absolutely incredible,” said Evans, a health and safety manager from Pontypridd, Wales who flew to Tenerife on the opening day of the tournament with her father and six friends.

She said she paid £750 (€865, $905) for a flight to Tenerife and a week’s accommodation while going to Qatar would have set her back £3,000.

Pubs and restaurants in the south of Tenerife, part of Spain’s sun-kissed Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa, have rolled out the welcome mat, decorating their walls with Welsh flags and putting Wales matches on TV.

Kelly Spiers, 45, the owner of the Original Wigan Pier pub and its sister bar La Flaca next door in Costa Adeje, said she had to order extra beer after she agreed at Evans’s request to host fans.

Decked out in red Welsh football jerseys and bucket hats, hundreds of Wales fans packed the two bars for their side’s 1-1 draw with the United States in their opener on November 21st and the 2-0 defeat to Iran on Friday.

“A lot of us have lost our voices because we have been shouting across the bar trying to get people’s orders because they were so noisy,” said Spiers, who is from Northern Ireland.

Spiers, who has lived in Tenerife for 26 years, has given Welsh names to cocktails and hired a choir to perform during halftime of the Welsh team’s crucial match against England on Tuesday.

A draw will be enough for England to make it through to the last 16 whereas Wales need to beat England to have any chance of qualifying, and hope for a draw between the United States and Iran in the other match.

Welsh fans have jammed other bar and restaurants in palm-lined Costa Adeje as well as nearby Los Cristianos and other coastal towns in the south of Tenerife, the most visited of the Canary Islands which is home to around 950,000 people.

Tony Lankshear, who works at Hoops Bar in Los Cristianos, said there have been Welsh fans “in every night” since the tournament began.

“It just sort of caught on. Word spread among all the Welsh supporters, a lot of them decided ‘right let’s go over and have a party in Tenerife’,” he said.

Unfortunately, there was a reminder of the alcohol-fuelled excesses of British tourists in Spain when on Friday drunk Wales and England fans took part in mass brawl in Las Veronicas bar area.

Videos have been widely shared on social media showing how a number of inebriated tourists punch, kick, push and even throw chairs at each other, resulting in several injuries. 

As a result, Tenerife authorities have reinforced police presence in the tourist areas ahead of England v Wales on Tuesday night.

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