Catalan Government and Barcelona Council will study limiting number of cruise ships

Mayor Colau warns "we cannot grow endlessly"

3 min
A cruise ship docked at the Port of Barcelona

BarcelonaRepresentatives of the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan government have met this Thursday at the Saló de Cent in the Catalan capital to address some of the challenges the city is facing. One of them is tourist overcrowding. In this bilateral meeting, chaired by Mayor Ada Colau and Presidency Councillor Laura Vilagrà, the two institutions have agreed to "create a working group to study the regulation of cruise ships and their environmental impact on tourism". The name of the new commission is important because it includes the term "regulation", a word that Presidency counillor Laura Vilagrà has avoided pronouncing during her appearance after the meeting. "The verb regulate, I don't use it. I don't want to use it. It is a taskforce", Vilagrà finally said, after journalists insitence to know whether limits on the arrival of cruise ships in Barcelona will be considered, as Colau demands. The councillor explained that data will be collected and analysed to find out "what is the best solution to reduce the environmental impact and tourist overcrowding caused by cruise ships". She has specified, for example, that the Government is finalising a tax on cruises and explained that money raised will be used to for environmental policies.

Colau was much more ambitious, insisting that "limits must be set; you cannot grow endlessly because the city is finite". The mayor recalled that 40% of cruise ships arriving in the city only spend about four hours and that, therefore, the economic expenditure of these tourists is minimal. However, its impact on the environment and on residents of Ciutat Vella's mobility is huge. "Regulation is good news," insisted Colau, who recalled the example of Palma. However, deputy mayor Jaume Collboni also avoided using the verb regulate, and spoke of more "quality" rather than "quantity". Even so, he warned that no conclusion can be drawn from the table until it has met.

Colau already demanded that this commission be constituted on May 24, days before thirteen cruise ships docked in the city, one of them with a capacity for 9,300 tourists. The data show that the tourist pressure on Barcelona is recovering and figures are already approaching the pre-pandemic era. In 2017, before the drop in tourism due to coronavirus, 2.7 million cruise passengers arrived in Barcelona and the figure grew in 2018 (3 million) and 2019 (3.1 million).

The president of Barcelona's Port, Damià Calvet, responded to the mayoress and reminded her that this activity generates an "indisputable benefit" both in terms of revenue and reputation. At this working table, in addition to the City Council and the Generalitat, representatives of the State Government and the Port Authority will also be present.

At the meeting they also discussed the projects that will receive funding thanks to the European Next Generation funds. One of the beneficiaries will be the Ciutadella Knowledge Project, a new research and innovation complex focused on precision biomedicine, biodiversity and planetary wellbeing that will be located in the old Fish Market. It has also been agreed to set up a working group to prepare for the extension of the Hospital Clínic to the university campuses on Avinguda Diagonal, and that the Generalitat will cover part of the cost of the suicide prevention telephone number created by the Barcelona City Council and the City Council dentist, who will be in some outpatient clinics for families who do not have enough resources. It has also been agreed that the Generalitat will double its investment in aid for refugees and victims of gender violence.

On the issue of housing, one of the great challenges faced by city, there is still a long way to go for the two institutions to reach an agreement. Colau recalled that the Generalitat, according to the Statute of Autonomy, ought to assume 60% of the cost of public housing and 40% should be paid by the City Council. Colau claims the City Council is currently building 1,300 social apartments, while the Generalitat's policy is "practically non-existent", since they are only building 30.