Interview with Pere Chias, president of the Catering Guild of Barcelona, by Carmen P. Flores.
In recent months, the Catalonian political situation has caused domestic and foreign tourists to choose different countries to enjoy the cities and cuisine. The restaurants have noticed the crisis. Pere Chias is the president of the Guild of Restoration of Barcelona.
How is the political crisis affecting the catering sector?
As expected, the global climate of political instability that has been created in Catalonia is affecting the day-to-day restaurant activity. And in a quite negative way: we have noticed a drop in domestic consumption of close to 30%. In addition, we have seen the prospects for the Christmas campaign cut back: unlike those of trade, the forecasts in our sector are not hopeful.
Since when has the drop in customers been noticed?
We need to clarify that the decrease in turnover that we suffer these days is not attributable solely to the political process. This is only the latest chapter in a series of phenomena that, one after another, have been weighing down the prospects of the sector. In the first place, we refer to the tourism phobia that the municipal government has been encouraging during the last years, which reached its zenith in attacks of vandalism against tourist buses at the beginning of last summer. A few weeks later, the city was hit by jihadist terrorism. Despite the fact that the people of Barcelona were conspiring to recover normality as soon as possible, the truth is that the commercial and service fabric of the area directly affected has seen a serious decline in activity.
Also in foreign tourists?
The official hotel occupancy figures that we have seen during the last weeks point to a slight decrease in tourism in Barcelona. We hope it is temporary and that the events that have taken place recently do not harm the image of the city as a tourist destination or its growth prospects.
What measures should be taken to improve the situation?
From the outset, the first thing that the municipal government should do is rectify its tourism-phobic drift and recognize that the tourism industry is one of the most important in Barcelona. Next, public resources should be dedicated to the city's international promotion, as has been done in recent years with excellent results.