Trade reportedly falls 60% in some areas, with concern about disturbances long-term effect
Still reeling from the collapse of Thomas Cook, Spains tourist industry is now counting the cost of prolonged rioting in Barcelona, the nations most popular urban destination.
A week of violent and destructive disturbances over the jailing of Catalan political leaders left the city with a clean-up bill estimated at 3m but it is feared that the images of airport chaos, running battles with police and flaming barricades will cost the city a great deal more.
The tourism association Barcelona Oberta estimates that economic activity in the city centre principally the retail and hospitality sectors fell by between 30-50% during the week after the sentences were announced on 14 October, either because clients stayed away to avoid being caught up in the violence or because establishments closed for fear of damage or looting.
Roger Pallarols, president of the Barcelona restaurateurs association, said that in the areas directly affected by the disturbances trade fell by about 60%. Some 70 restaurants also had their outdoor terraces destroyed as rioters burned chairs and parasols on the barricades, causing around 2m in damage to property.
Last week was a lost week from the point of view of restaurateurs, Pallarols said. Things are quiet now but if this continues restaurants will have to lay off staff because the profit margins are very small.
Some of the worst rioting was in Passeig de Grcia, the citys upmarket shopping street, where around 60% of sales are to tourists.
Sales were down around 30% over the week, said Luis Sans, president of the Passeig de Grcia association. Were seeing a return to normality now but the short term is one thing, another is the effect these images will have had on peoples desire to come to Barcelona.
There was a lot of damage but at least, unlike the gilets jaunes in Paris, the demonstrators didnt set out to destroy shops and restaurants.
Manel Casals, head of the Barcelona hoteliers association, said there have been cancellations but relatively few, although he has no figures as yet. What we are seeing is fewer people are making reservations than is normal at this time of year.
The same is happening with Airbnb and other holiday apartment platforms. According AirDNA, which analyses the short-term rental market, reservations for the week from 14 October, when the protests began, were down by nearly 1,000 on the same week last year, from 12,515 to 11,537.
Tourism accounts for 15% of Barcelonas GDP and the hotel business alone has a turnover of some 1.6bn. The tourism industry employs around 100,000 people, 40,000 of them directly.
As well as tourism, Barcelona is one of the worlds favourite conference venues. There are conferences every day of the week but the real money-spinner is the Mobile World Conference. Last year the 100,000 visitors to the congress spent 473m while creating 14,000 temporary jobs. The current contract with the city expires in 2023.
Conferences are organised a long way in advance and aside from an American convention I dont know of any cancellations, said Christoph Tessmar, director of the Barcelona Tourism Convention Bureau. In recent years Barcelona has had to confront major crises but has maintained its position as a world leader for conferences, although the images weve seen in recent days could have a negative impact in the short term.