“Do you see this room? Six months ago at this hour it was all full, especially of Koreans.” It is noon, and one of the Vinitus workers observes the space, all empty, with a certain resignation. The queues for lunch and dinner at this restaurant in the center of Barcelona were the usual tone of the business. “And now you see,” says the employee, “this summer will be about survival.”
The feeling is shared with other places in the area and, above all, by the Barcelona Restaurant Guild, which this Wednesday told ARA that there are still 25% of places that are closed. The picture is even worse in the hotel sector. The president of Turisme de Barcelona, Eduard Torres, has repeated what he had already advanced yesterday in the presentation of the city’s strategy to recover tourism: there are only 10% of hotels open (about fifty) and with a 10% of employment, or in other words, 90% remain behind closed doors. All this represents a drop in demand of 99% over the same period last year.
Tourism, Torres said in an interview with TV3, “will not end.” However, the figures that will indicate a complete recovery will not be seen until 2022, and this means that the challenge is to get there with the minimum possible mortality of companies. In fact, the “satisfactory” share would be to reach between 20% and 30% of employment this summer, but the fact that the forecast is so low has led many businesses to decide not to open. “The premises that are located in the tourist circuit are the ones that suffer most from the absence of tourism and see the reopening with great difficulty,” says a spokesman for the Restoration Guild. “There are still those who have decided to jump into the pool, but there are others who have been forced to make the smartest decision in order to save the company: what is the point of hiring workers? , buy food and see that consumption does not go back? So works to lose money, “he laments.
A “lost” year for tourism
A walk through these tourist areas, Passeig de Gràcia, La Rambla or the cathedral, justifies the fear. Most conversations feel are Catalan and Spanish, and many of those that slip in French or English are residents of the city. In the middle of all this there are some tourists, but these are very specific cases. For example, a family from Germany explains that this is the tenth time they have come to Barcelona and that, accustomed to doing so, they have not been stopped by a virus that, they say, is “everywhere”. “Apart from that, the beaches are crowded in Germany,” she adds. In front of the cathedral, a couple of Dutch people respond in a similar vein: they come to Barcelona every few years, are housed in Miami Platja (in the province of Tarragona) and do not suffer from coronavirus. “We do life outdoors and that’s it,” they justify. A little further down, in the port, a French family in this case explains that this is their first time in Barcelona and the reason why they have chosen this destination for their vacation, which will be ten days, seems obvious to them: it is close by and the borders are already open.
“Of course, some tourists will come, but it won’t be anything compared to other years,” admits the spokesman for the Restaurant Guild. .
It is, at least, the scene drawn by one of the workers of the Cachitos Restaurant, located on the Rambla de Catalunya. The business has gone from opening every day of the week to only five. And it does so with 9 workers in a workforce that reaches 65 people in high season. “You don’t see anything foreign tourism at all,” says the employee. “Let’s see if this weekend starts to get a little lively, but the feeling is that the summer will be very hard.” A worker from Barcelona, a restaurant in the same area, also talks about this weekend as a thermometer, because, for now, all her audience is still local.
Tourists arrive by dropper
The point is that although the borders with the Schengen area were finally opened on 22 June, for a long time the message was that they would do so on 1 July. And it is not until this Wednesday, in fact, that the borders of the European Union open to third countries, such as Morocco or China. In any case, the Minister of Industry of the Spanish government, Maria Jesús Montero, also stated this Wednesday that tourists are arriving, even if they do so in stages. Two tourist guides from the company Free Walking Tours Barcelona who are waiting with their purple umbrella in Plaça Catalunya are pronounced in line with the minister’s optimism: it is true that in the morning the tour is for Spanish speakers, but in the seven people have registered for the tour in English this afternoon. “We’re at 10% of what we were doing, but we’re going to do it,” he says.
At the moment, a resident of Cuenca who has a habit of traveling to the city where he was born, Barcelona, thinks about it. “I was in Plaça Sant Jaume on Gay Pride Day and nothing, four cats; yesterday, around the Camp del Barça, and neither,” he laments. “This is not the Barcelona I know,” he concludes as he walks down an empty Rambla of tourists.