Barcelona: Focusing on tourism


The modern, white Joan Miro Museum nestled in green hills encircling this city is emblematic of Barcelona's hopes for a new direction in tourism.

Down below, at the city's port, is a 200-foot statue of Christopher Columbus at the center of all that rankles the city's voters about the current state of tourism.

The statue anchors Las Ramblas, the 18th century shaded walkway where tourists leaving the sandy beaches and the cruise ships docked at the port stampede through the city. These millions of tourists who visit the city annually are blamed by locals for rising prices at stores and bars and for rising rents that are pushing them out of their homes. In the Ramblas neighborhood alone, some 45% of locals have had to leave.

This is the geography of the political debate ignited by Ada Colau, who surprised the world two years ago when she was elected mayor of Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city, running largely on the issue of tourism. 
'We have to balance the needs of tourism with the people who live here,' said Valenti Oviedo, CEO of the Institut de Cultura de Barcelona, who is working with city hall to enhance cultural tourism. 'If we begin our discussions with 'What can we do for tourism?' then it will be very difficult for our city to run organically, naturally.'

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