How many cruise passengers can Barcelona take?

The debate on setting a cap is watered down to a petition to the Port to prioritise travellers setting off from the city

2 min
One of the cruise terminals in the port of Barcelona.

BarcelonaThe initial announcement was that ERC's group at Barcelona City Council would table a proposal to limit the number of cruise passengers visiting the city and prevent more than 200,000 visiting the city in any given month, while before the pandemic 400,000 cruise passengers would visit the city in August. The text that has finally been brought to debate, however, no longer speaks of limitations or caps. Instead, it asks the Port to prioritise cruise passengers embarking in the city to those who only stop over, since the first spending more in the city. This is a waiting move until the Council receives the results of the study commissioned to determine how many tourists the city centre can accommodate and draw up the strategic tourism plan 2023-2026 taking this into account.

When he presented the proposal, however, ERC's Miquel Puig has insisted that he believes that the number of cruise passengers that the city can sustain is that of at most 200,000 per month, and that he would be surprised if the study set a higher figure. "The model is unsustainable and ecologically inefficient" he warned, after recalling that in 2000 Barcelona received 100,000 cruise passengers in August and that this figure has now multiplied by four. "The stopovers go around in herds and spend about €50 each in the city, whereas those who start their trip here spend about €500," he added to justify that perhaps stopovers could be dispensed with.

The rest of the opposition groups have criticised that the text that is taken to vote did not specify any of the figures that ERC had announced and the proposal has been approved with favourable votes of En Comú and the Socialists, who had agreed the text with ERC, and JxCat, with a commitment to work on a new strategic plan for tourism. The Port's plans, however, are to recover the milestone of three million cruise passengers per year as soon as possible: if not this year, next year, as detailed a few days ago to ARA by its president, Damià Calvet.

The councillor for Tourism, the socialist Xavier Marcé, has thanked ERC's "consensus proposal" and has asked for support to get the Government to favour the city in its strategic plan. The consensus text specifies that a working group will be created with the Generalitat and the Agència Catalana de Turisme to harmonise strategies.

When ERC made the first announcement about the monthly cap, the deputy mayor for Urbanism, Janet Sanz, asked them in statements to this newspaper to make the proposal to the Catalan Government, which appoints the president of the Port Authority: "Cities do not have competences to set these caps. Not even Venice has done it. But we do have to demand to be a key player in the configuration of the port".

The debate on the number of cruise passengers that Barcelona should welcome already came up last term, when the then Ciutat Vella councilor, Gala Pin, compared these tourists to a "plague of grasshoppers that devour public space and leave" and said she was in favour of abolishing this type of tourism in the city. What the municipal government has done since then is to reach an agreement with the port to concentrate cruise ships in terminals that are further away from the city centre.