Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Barcelona - the goose that lays the golden eggs

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Peru Erroteta

A farmer and his wife discover that one of their geese is laying golden eggs. Not content to wait for the next egg to be laid, they decide to kill her thinking that there is gold inside. When they discover that it is not, they realise that they would have been better to keep what they already had. This old Aesop's fable serves to illustrate what might happen to tourism in Barcelona if we are not able to handle it with common sense, together...

"Even although it is being constantly questioned since a long time ago, and despite the new city government expressing time and time again its intention to revise the current model from top to bottom and put limits on the influx of tourists, this activity does not stop growing in Barcelona. And it will continue, at least in the short term." La Vanguardia pronounced it clearly in this way last June 18, on announcing that last year the city broke its record by their hotels reaching 7.8 million visitors and exceeding 17 million overnight stays (26 million, adding together all kinds of accommodation). This year it is expected to increase by 5%.

Why this diabolical momentum in growth? Why is it, as when you ride a bike, you cannot stop pedalling to avoid falling? Marx in his work, The Capital, sought to demonstrate that far from being produced by external factors, the economic crisis of capitalism (boom-to-bust bubbles) occurred by their own internal dynamics. In each of the expansive economic cycles, capitalists embark on a race in improvements to produce increasing amounts, faster and cheaper until there comes a time when the market cannot buy everything they produce. They start slowly and then accelerate, and at the highest point, plummet. That happened (remember?) with housing and we already know what the consequences are.

In this logic, only governed by the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith, the only obsessive objective of the lobbies controlling the industry is to grow, grow at the expense of anything, even their own survival. And this is what makes the phenomenon tend to instrumentalise the city to its own advantage. Because, far from the thesis proposed by those concerned and their spokesmen, the negative impact of tourism is not confined to a mere matter of "nuisance to the neighbourhood," but extends to the territory, urbanism, culture, gentrification, the prices, police... and even the city's own profile, its personality and its future. "Lately, the interviews with Trias, on top of sovereignism, revolve around tourism, like those of a mayor of any coastal village," the sociologist José Luis Alvarez wrote last autumn in "El País". "These are examples; limit Barcelona to being a successful coastal tourist village, more events and conferences; a region, one more, of a homogeneous Catalonia, of the lowest common denominator, that of non-metropolitan counties", he said.

The propaganda also tries to make us believe that this tourism is simply the natural consequence of our attributes, and it is not true. Of course, the sun, the beaches, the club, Gaudí... invite you to visit Barcelona and, as stated in the official version, nearly all started with the Olympic Games in 1992. However, it is also true that the excessive growth of tourism could not be explained without the cheap flights, cruises, low-cost packages and self-segmentation of the offer (conferences, entertainment, sport...). All this in parallel with a rapid development of the range of accommodation and, of course, the indirect contribution of instability in the south Mediterranean, which always helps to add... I mean, cannot we look only for what we are or pretend to be, rather because It is now easier and cheaper to do so.

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