Spoilt by tourists (again)?

BBC's Fast-Track asks "Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?"

BBC’s Fast-Track asks: “Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?”

“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?


Cervezeros crafting “better places”

As well as having an interest in how different places pulse, I also love following the craft beer movement, whether that’s here in Barcelona/Catalunya/Spain/Iberia/the Med, or further beyond. So my interest leapt when I read of the marriage of both:

Modern Times exists to make extraordinary beer. But it’s also an actor in the life of this city. It has a responsibility to shape its own environment, to constructively engage with the city upon which it relies. One of the ways it will do that is by helping to transform San Diego into a better, more liv[e]able place.

The wonder of the Internet returns…  I have found a kindred spirit way out west in California!

Read Transforming San Diego if you think the liquid poetry and social catalyst of good beer can have anything to do with shaping better places to live in and better places to visit. And please comment here on what you see as the real and possible connections between the two.


Getting Close-serola

Barcelona, post-1992 Olympics, is a story that has been told countless times in print, conference rooms and tour guide banter: finally, after decades with their backs to the Med and their plumbing pointing straight into its immediate depths, the Barcelonins gave their stretch of coastline a spring clean and reacquainted themselves with their maritime souls.

It’s an account that washes over some contradictory and more place-specific detail.  For insight, talk to some old-timers in the sea- and portside neighbourhood of La Barceloneta, or ask questions about the former shanty town neighbourhood, El Somorrostro.  A good source of such insight might be La Barceloneta Rebel.

My point is that the situation today is generally the reverse.  From their homes and workplaces the attentions of many Barcelonins are directed to the beach, to a stroll in sea breeze reverie, or to a plate heaped with steaming cooked gifts from the sea and rice paddy.

Meanwhile, the thoughts of a small minority of Barcelonins slip through the backdoor to the hills behind this compact metropolis: La Collserola natural park.

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Going unseen places

One of the highlights of last week’s World Responsible Tourism program for me was finding out about Unseen Tours (London’s Street Voices), which received a hefty whack of recognition by winning Best Tour Operator for Local Experiences and Joint Overall Winner at the Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 (the latter shared with Robin Pope Safaris).

Here’s the proposition.  If you “want to challenge your view of what it means to be a person living in London”  then Unseen Tours offers “historical but also unexplored glimpses of the city, as perceived through the lens of homelessness”:

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