May and October are high cruise season in Barcelona. And all you have to do is walk into a port to see ships or stumble upon groups of cruise passengers on the Rambla to make sure the city is back to pre-pandemic levels thanks to these floating hotels. This month, 125 cruise ships will dock in the city: 40% stop for several hours, and 60% have the port of Barcelona as their departure or destination. From January to May, 252 cruise ships dock in the city, almost the same number as in 2019 (265). The difference is that now, with a pandemic hangover, ships don’t dock and set sail full.
Passenger data is known with a delay of a month. Between January and April this year, the city received 220,000 cruise passengers, half the number in 2019, even though the high season is now starting. The prospects are good, sources from the Port of Barcelona point out: “Shipping companies have once again made a firm commitment to Barcelona”, they note that in 2019 it was the first cruise port in the Mediterranean with 3.1 million cruise passengers. “The international situation (covid in Asia, the war in Ukraine) makes it difficult to predict the occupation and the results of 2022,” they indicate from the port, where they remind that 18% of cruise passengers are from North America. Expected arrivals should exceed 2019 figures.
The return of this industry is welcomed by the tourism industry of the city council (which during this mandate is in the hands of the socialists), hotel owners and restaurateurs. For hotels near the port, “cruise passengers make up 40% of turnover during strong months,” says Hotel Association CEO Manel Casals. Victor Marquez of the Arc Hotel on the Rambla says 20% of their customers this month are cruise passengers, Americans who stay one or two nights from the moment they land until the next time they sail.
Instead, downtown organizations and environmental associations are raising their hands to their heads at the return of an industry they see as the quintessence of tourism’s so-called “negative externalities”: pollution, pressure on neighborhoods and housing, and disappearance of proximity. trade. Listed by Daniel Pardo of the Neighborhood Assembly to Reduce Tourism Growth. “The pandemic was a paralysis that seemed to rethink things, but we are where we were: streams of tours that are defined by how numerous they are,” says Pardo, who rejects the decentralization of visitors: “It spreads the problem to more areas.” “It is not clear that the same municipal government that declares a climate emergency is allowing this industry to continue to flourish in the city,” he laments.
In 2018, the government of Mayor Ada Colau and the Port of Barcelona reached an agreement on plans to build new terminals (up to seven, now there are five) at the adjacent pier. The pact pushes cruise ships away from the center and puts a limit on space, but there’s room to grow. The port does not set a completion date. In the near future, MSC plans to start work on the sixth terminal. New docks attract new and old ships. This season, the largest cruise ship in the world Wonder of the Seas (Royal Caribbean, 365 meters long and 9,300 people, including cruise passengers and crew) makes a stop in Barcelona every Sunday.
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Consistory Tourism Advisor Xavier Marset argues that “the visitor economy is benefiting worldwide” and that they are combating the negative effects of tourism with plans such as hotels. In terms of cruises, Marse appeals to a commitment to “decarbonization by prioritizing departure and destination cruises (which involve accommodation costs the night before and after) to the detriment of those passing through; and a mobility policy in the city to avoid concentration at points like the Rambla.”
For cruise passengers who visit the city during a layover – “the ones we’re least interested in,” he says – Marse is working with the port of Barcelona on measures such as allowing newcomers to leave on buses that stop at different points in the city. or the ability to create a tour bus route that reaches the docks so that cruise passengers can have a “decentralized and panoramic” visit.
Palma limits cruises to three per day
From 2022, the port of Palma limits the arrival of cruise ships to three ships per day, of which only one can accommodate more than 5,000 passengers. The regulation is the result of lengthy negotiations between the regional government and the International Association of Cruise Lines to reduce pressure on the concentration of cruise passengers during the high season. The Balearic government was unable to regulate the arrival and preferred to negotiate. Despite the fact that the ports of the Balearic Islands are under the jurisdiction of the state, the Ministry of Tourism took the lead in the negotiations due to the strategic importance that the ports have in the autonomous community. Before covid, the overcrowding of the streets of the historic center of Palma caused a great social outcry and led to the creation of a civil platform against these megaships. 2019 marked a turning point with 2.6 million cruise passengers arriving and 818 ships stopping, making Palma the second national destination after Barcelona. The forecast for this year is 518, and the constraint will spread them across the year because in 2019, they were docked by six in one day. – LUCIA BOJORQES
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