Leftist Barcelona mayor suspends new hotel licenses
BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoBarcelona’s new-leftist mayor on July 2 halted the issuing of new licenses for tourist accommodation for one year while it develops a new strategy for a sector some complain has grown too big.
“This is a temporary measure for one year, the time it will take to develop a strategic project for tourist accommodation,” Ada Colau told a news conference.
“Tourism is one of the main assets of this city and therefore it is our collective responsibility to take care of it and make it as sustainable as possible,” added Colau who was sworn in last month.
Barcelona city hall said the suspension would apply to hotels, apartments, hostels and privately owned accommodation houses.
It will affect some 30 current applications, including several projects which were already being developed.
Colau, an anti-eviction activist and one of the leading lights of Spain’s “Indignado” protest movement against economic inequality, had promised to control mass tourism in Barcelona if elected.
Barcelona is one of Europe’s most visited cities, receiving 27 million visitors annually. But many of its 1.6 million residents say the city is being overrun and losing its character.
Local residents complain of noisy celebrations by young tourists, higher prices and crowded parks and beaches because of the rise in the number of tourists.
Tourism accounts for up to 12 percent of the northeastern city’s economic output.
One of the projects affected is a plan to turn the city’s iconic geyser-shaped Agbar skyscraper tower into a hotel, a municipal source said.
Investment fund Emin Capital paid 150 million euros ($166 million) in 2013 for the building, which it planned to turn into a 410-room Hyatt luxury hotel.
Building works to transform the skyscraper into a hotel were due to start in October and the hotel had been slated to open in 2017.
“This will cost us a great deal because the maintenance of the building is very expensive, nearly 2.5 million euros per year even if it is not occupied,” Emin Capital president Jordi Badia told AFP.
“How am I going to explain it to my investors?,” he added.
The opening of the hotel would create 425 direct jobs and nearly 450 indirect jobs, said Badia.
Another 750 people would be employed to convert the building into a hotel.
“How many waiters, carpenters, painters, would have a job. I don’t understand this decision,” said Badia.