Barcelona has been fighting for years against mass tourism. Before the pandemic, the city counted 50 million overnight stays per year. The center around Plaça de Catalunya was completely overcrowded.
Before the pandemic, a quarter of the population saw tourism as a problem, and more than half of the visitors complained about the crowds. Since Corona, fewer visitors have been coming. Signs saying "For Sale" dominated the old town and Barcelona travel profits went down.
The tourism commissioner of the city administration, Xavier Marcé, hopes for the return of tourists, but not as it once was. "Sustainability" and "decentralization" are the buzzwords with which the left-wing alternative city administration under the mayor and former activist against evictions from apartments, Ada Colau, wants to shape returning tourism. That is, "away from pure leisure tourism" of the droves who come for a weekend in the cheap plane, to "tourism with added value".
The future Barcelona wants to be more than Gaudí, soccer, beaches and pubs. It is about culture, technology, design and education. One example of what this looks like is Poblenou, the so-called District 22@. In recent years, the former industrial area has become a showcase for modern architecture, start-ups and chic showrooms. More and more tourists are visiting the area. Hotels and restaurants have sprung up.
This development is supported by a 2016 norm that allows new overnight accommodations only in outlying areas.