Wednesday , September 19 2018

The locals killing tourism: Why Barcelona is a Kiwi cautionary tale

Barcelona hotel bookings plummeted 20 percent in August, prompting fears the Spanish city is losing its visitors because of anti-tourist sentiment.

Hotel owners are calling for urgent action to fix the perception that the city is hostile to visitors, with Jordi Clos, president of the Barcelona Hotels’ Association, likening the situation to “a cold which needs curing before it becomes pneumonia”.

Luxury hotels have been the worst affected by the downturn, with the industry blaming, among other things, incidents of ‘tourismphobia’ and negative publicity caused by various protests, including holiday coach blockades, verbal abuse of visitors and anti-tourism graffiti.

Anti-tourist sentiment is also on the rise in New Zealand, fuelled by frustration over the actions of numerous freedom campers and the crush of visitors spoiling pristine wilderness sites considered national treasures by locals.

And the pressure is likely to become greater, with visitor arrivals to Aotearoa predicted to grow 4.6 per cent a year to reach more than five million by 2024.

While Kiwis overwhelmingly understand the importance of tourism to the economy, Tourism industry Aotearoa’s six-monthly Mood of the Nation survey has charted a rise in visitor fatigue.

The proportion of those surveyed who feel international visitors put too much pressure on New Zealand has grown 13 per cent to 39 per cent over the past three years.

Comments from the survey include:

“A lot of camper vans on the road and ridiculous driving”

“It can often feel overcrowded in certain places, especially during the summer”

“Sometimes Dunedin feels overcrowded and the locals get pushed aside in favour of the tourists”

“Peak season there are too many people”

Of course, Kiwi grumbles are a far cry from the tyre-slashing of rental bikes, egg-pelting of tourist vehicles and masked hold-ups of holiday buses which have plagued Barcelona.

And our government has demonstrated serious commitment to easing tourism crush issues – including $19.6 million just this week to support businesses applying for help through its tourism infrastructure fund.

But tourism bodies here acknowledge there is work to be done, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief Chris Robert saying: “The tourism industry is committed to managing tourism growth in a way that is sustainable and acceptable to our communities.”

Roberts is close to decisions about how the government’s new inbound tourist tax will be spent, insisting it’s crucial that funds are used to steer sustainable tourism and relieve pressure on local communities.

In Barcelona, the hotels’ association wants ten per cent of the proceeds of a tourist tax to go towards re-branding Barcelona.

Accommodation figures for the Spanish city in July and August show drops across accommodation categories, with the average room price falling 19 percent to 135 euros for August and reduced occupancy contributing to an income reduction of 20 percent for hoteliers.

About Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews and Accom Management Guide. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: editorial@accomnews.co.nz

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