Barcelona rethinks its reliance on tourism as bans keep foreigners away

Barcelona rethinks its reliance on tourism as bans keep foreigners away

It’s late July on Barcelona’s La Rambla and there are no takers for the Mexican hats and Gaudí mouse mats for sale on street stalls, nor any business for a solitary selfie-stick hawker. The city’s famous boulevard is usually a heaving mass of humanity; now it’s all but deserted. French advice against travel to Catalonia and the UK’s de facto ban on travel to Spain have painted the country as Europe’s Covid-19 pariah, but many Spaniards feel they are being scapegoated. “Some English people in a hotel here said London is much less safe, that people don’t keep their distance or wear masks, and it seems unjust if the situation in the country of origin is no better than it is here,” said Martí Sabrià of the Costa Brava hospitality and tourism association. Just or not, the renewed travel bans have been the kiss of death to the Spanish hospitality industry: the small revival in tourist numbers after Spain’s lockdown ended on 21 June has now stopped in its tracks. In Barcelona, businesses are furious that, when infections started to rise again in late July, Catalan president Quim Torra announced a lockdown he was not empowered to enforce. By the time he explained that the measure was merely advisory, “Barcelona in lockdown” had gone viral and hotels and restaurants were reporting cancellations. Roger Pallarols, of the city’s restaurateurs’ association, laments the decision to advise people to stay at home while bars and restaurants were allowed to ...
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