“Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?” This is a question that many Barcelona locals have been asking for some time. In fact, some minds were made up long ago.
It’s been two years since BBC’s Fast-Track came through to gauge the balance of opinion on tourism and everyday life in and around Barcelona’s “Old Town” and other visitor hotspots. Since then, there is perceptibly less grumbling about what, how and why tourism detracts from the city, which says something about public awareness of the economic benefits tourism brings to the city–no one in Spain right now wants to knock a trade that continues to grow and provide jobs.
But the issues surrounding the negative impacts of tourism don’t go away. Do tourism activities and tourist paraphernalia now dominate sense of place in Barcelona’s “historical centre”?
Ensuring residents enjoy liveable places—a liveable city—can often go hand-in-hand with better places to visit. So how can the remaining local charm and local life—those sources of increasing visitor interest (as well as distinct market advantage)—be sustained and nourished so that, further down the line, Barcelona can continue to reap the benefits of visitor arrivals and spend?
These are the issues that I hope will be thoroughly explored at RTD7. I’m also really looking forward to hearing the likes of destination manager and marketers, Pere Duran and Mario Rubert speak on these issues, as well as the very observant human geographer, Jose Antonio Donaire.
Can the RTD7 programme–and the ensuing Declaration–help chart a more sustainable course for a city that continues to prosper from tourism?
News from Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales (Australia), of an initiative that will actively seek to cultivate sense of place, particularly among the young. Run as a World Responsible Tourism Day activity, it will seek to foster connectiveness to nature using Aboriginal belief systems.
Organiser, Christopher Warren, writes “research confirms that individuals who have pro-environmental values also hold a strong connectivity to nature, and are frequently positive thinkers. Methods [therefore] need to be found to build connectivity to nature which in turn can influence pro-environmental social practice and behaviour”.
To achieve this highly intangible yet very valuable prize, Chris and his colleagues at a local school and in an aboriginal community will try “to determine if elements of traditional environmental care can be transferred to school children [to] successfully build pro-environmental values through connection”.
The 2012 World Responsible Tourism Day marks just the start of this very local action–the activity will run for at least a year and seek to engage youngsters through workbooks, encounters, reflections and story-writing. To find out how this progresses, and perhaps contribute your ideas and moral support, follow Chris and colleagues here.
News of an astonishing agreement that recognises the status of a river in New Zealand as Te Awa Tupua, i.e. “an integrated, living whole”. New Zealand’s Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson stated:
Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.
Whanganui iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing.
A piece in The Economist pitches New York against London in terms of progress on “bettering” public spaces. More usefully, it provides an overview of some of the key dynamics shaping today’s “capital public spaces” as well as people’s relationships with them, i.e.:
- continued pedestrianisation and trading off visitor (tourist) interests against the interests of car-dependent or business-owning locals;
- the insidious privatisation of public space;
- place-making changes shaped by commercial motives, not community needs and sentiments;
- the forces of power and control shaping public space.
Decent public space became an economic necessity.
For the washed, who quite like shopping and safety, such space is a great deal better than nothing.
The problem comes down to governance. While New York’s mayor is all-powerful, London’s shares power with 32 boroughs, which often have conflicting agendas.
Working through Nick Lloyd’s Iberia Nature and Spanish Civil War tours I was able to take some visitors on a rarely-run, long Barcelona walk at the weekend. We ventured through some of the city’s particularly meaning-laden places, as well as other places less well-known, applying a kind of sense of place framework as we went.
A brace of recent articles at the Independent‘s site came together for me this morning to configure a constellation of important issues that I think all of us have to grapple with at some time or other: when voting, when deciding which places we spend time in and which (places and people) we denigrate, when sharing such opinions at the bar or over coffee, and when assimilating the views of others. (Assuming a general desire to move beyond bigotry, I’d be particularly careful when handling the views of some opinion piece writers in the Daily Mail, for example–their precise toxicity is not specified on any label).
Identity and nationhood, “race” and ignorance, nostalgia and the challenges of adapting when “your place” changes; prospects for the young, rough justice for some and impunity for others, etc, etc…
Go ahead and grapple, search the heavens of your intellect, consciousness and conscience, and let me know if you make any sense of this particular constellation.
Outside Barcelona’s principal contemporary art museum, MACBA, skateboarders exhibit their skill, concentration and precision, not unlike the architect who carved new lines and folded new spaces into this mixed urban landscape. Except the skateboarders are indisputably dynamic. Weaving amidst others passing by or lingering here, their movement adds energy to this place, and is inextricably linked to its physical parameters.
Yet the skateboarders can be a noisy nuisance, particularly for nearby residents if the clatter of boards on concrete goes on for hours on end and late into the evening.
What would you do–prohibit, tolerate, regulate, enjoy?
From a lecture by Iain Borden and opinion piece on The Independent‘s pages:
“What skateboarding, and all the myriad urban practices of the city tell us, is that we need to need to celebrate three things: different peoples, different spaces and different ways of knowing the city.”
Is this irresponsible tourism? A group of London lads travel to Ibiza to film a music video parodying a certain brand of British tourism–cue littering, reckless spending, drunkenness, vomiting, and the wanton spreading of venereal disease–and subsequently achieve notoriety by posting their production, Pizza in Ibiza, to YouTube (390,000+ views since early June).
While the Director General of Toursim for the Balearic Islands’ autonomous community, Jaime Martínez, has erupted–“it’s intolerable that four louts have smeared the image of Ibiza for their own benefit”–I was left wondering if they hadn’t captured part of the reality of mass party tourism to Ibiza.
I have taken my first plunge into blogging here close on the heels of rioting in urban England. Many of the first televised reactions with those affected first and first-hand—the non-rioting residents of some London neighbourhoods—revealed the shocks to many people’s sense of place, particularly in terms of their identifying with the place they live in. One black woman’s plaintive response sticks in my mind: “…but this is England”, as if this kind of thing doesn’t and shouldn’t happen in her place, her home, her England. Issues of belonging lie beneath the surface of what has happened too—“this is our community, and we have come here to get it back on its feet again”.