Barcelona's tourism councillor encourages hotels to raise prices to attract "quality" visitors

Hotelier guild defends that the pandemic has proven that being cheaper attracts "lower level" tourists

3 min
Tourism arrives in dribs and drabs, insufficient for hotels and stores in Barcelona

BarcelonaIn the midst of a recovery in visitor numbers, these days the political debate in Barcelona has centred around the kind of tourism the city wants. Mayoress Ada Colau called for a limits on cruise ships and measures against overcrowding in the centre. However, the city's tourism councillor, the socialist Xavier Marcé spoken along different lines: he advocates attracting "quality" tourists, and as a key step along this path proposes that city hotels raise their rates. The president of the Gremi de Hotels, Jordi Clos, has applauded this proposal, claiming that during the two years under pandemic restrictions, when hotels attempted to seduce domestic tourists, rates tended to go down and this has meant the arrival of "lower level" visitors, in the councillor's words. He added that now that the situation is returning to normal and prices are going back up, tourists which are not the city's target are "disappearing".

Marcé wanted to emphasise that the distinction between one visitor and another is not strictly according to the money they spend in the city, but attracting tourists who "knows what they have come to look for in Barcelona", and this usually coincides with those who are "willing" to spend more. "We do not have to compete on price, but on quality," he said, adding that it is not in the city's interests for hotels to enter into a reverse "auction" to lower prices and attract visitors without any kind of filters.

In April, the average price of a hotel room in Barcelona was €150, €13 less than what was paid in the same month before the pandemic. And both Clos and Marcé have insisted that it is necessary to move towards a "normalisation" of these rates. Price is a way of filtering out the visitors the city doesn't want, according to Clos, who gives the example of Venice, which has much more expensive hotels in the canal area than in Mestre, on the mainland. "The type of people who go to the Venice of the canals have a different level and are willing to pay up to €400 for a hotel room," he praised.

No cap on cruise ships

The Tourism councillor also referred to Colau's proposal to set a daily limit for cruise ships following the model already used in Palma, where a maximum of three per day is allowed, and considered it an unnecessary measure because the city already limits this activity by seeking to be a home port and reducing the number of ships only calling for a few hours. Of the latter, he remarked that a third of the passengers they transport do not even get off the boat, a third sign up for an excursion and a third walk around and tend to concentrate around the Rambla. He added that measures are being agreed with the Port to prevent these visitors from accumulating in the centre of the city, such as having buses dropping passengers off at different points. Marcé also highlights that if cruise ships which have Barcelona as their home port are excluded, Barcelona will have only received an average 0.6 cruise ships per day. Therefore, he sees the proposed cap as unnecessary.

Terrace Week is back

Hoteliers expect this summer to be good for business, with occupancy rates in July and August of around 85%. This week, with Primavera Sound having started, the forecast is for hotels to be fully booked. Currently, only 2% or 3% of hotels are empty and, according to the president of the guild, these are establishments that surely will not reopen. Clos and Marcé have made these considerations in the presentation of the tenth edition of the Terrace Week, in which hotels open their terraces to visitors and host concers and other events. This year a record 56 hotels will take part, organising 150+ events between 10 and 19 June.