http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/barcelona-bans-new-hotels-in-city-centre/article/484584

Barcelona bans new hotels in city centre

Posted Jan 27, 2017 by AFP
The mayor of Barcelona on Friday banned the opening of new hotels in the saturated city centre, to end the flow of locals out of the area due to pressure on housing from the tourism sector.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau banned new hotels in the city centre on January 27  2017
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau banned new hotels in the city centre on January 27, 2017
Pau Barrena, AFP/File

The mayor of Barcelona on Friday banned the opening of new hotels in the saturated city centre, to end the flow of locals out of the area due to pressure on housing from the tourism sector.

The new initiative is part of a broader urban planning scheme for Spain's second city, which is one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations.

The Catalan municipality, led by leftist mayor Ada Colau, took the measure "to begin to regulate tourism", local official Janet Sanz explained.

A city which attracts tourists in large numbers is only a problem "in as much as it detrimentally affects the residents," Sanz said.

Colau, a former anti-eviction activist who became mayor in 2015, has long signalled that the right to housing is one of her priorities and has vowed to build 8,000 new social housing flats.

She has already begun to crack down, through fines, on the proliferation of unlicensed tourist accommodation in the city, often accessed through websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway.

Last year Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, received 30 million tourists from around the world, according to the municipality.

Tourism accounts for around 13 percent of the city's economy. But it also contributes to high rent increases, crowded public spaces and night-time disturbances.

In some parts of the city there are more tourists than locals.

In 2015 the issuance of new hotel licences was frozen.

Under the new plan, adopted with the support of parties on the left, it will not even be possible to replace hotels which close in the city centre.

Outside the centre future growth in the number of tourist beds will be capped at 11,000.

On Thursday the associations representing hoteliers, tradespeople and restaurateurs accused the municipality of "choosing paralysis and decline".

Conservative councillor Jordi Marti, called the plan a "bad tool" which could seriously damage the city.