Tapas, Gaudi, and… empty streets? Barcelona would seem unrecognisable to a tourist - if one were to be found - amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s having an enormous impact on how local residents are seeing their own lovely city.
How is Barcelona coping with the lockdown and what will the city look like in the coming months? To be fair, Barcelona’s once-thriving (to the point of being packed to the brim) La Rambla and other thoroughfares do have people walking by, usually hurriedly to the supermarket, masked and gloved. Otherwise, Deliveroo, Glovo, and police officers seem to be doing all right yet one particular demographic of which 30 million visited last year are nowhere to be seen - tourists.
If you have come to visit — and maybe study for your Spanish GCSE in the process — in the past, the city would almost look unrecognisable to you now.
Since enacting emergency measures on 14th March 2020, Spain is only now (as of 21st May) easing lockdowns in Barcelona. The state of the lockdown measures was strict, with residents only going out for essential activities.
Silence was broken in the streets of Barcelona only at 8 pm, when residents would go on their balcony to applaud health workers.
Since tourists have been unable to enter Barcelona during the lockdown, the city is scarcely recognisable from former years, where tourists packed the cafés and streets to the limit. Now, residents are reclaiming the city to find that it’s quiet - even dead. Where thousands would once gather to photograph landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia, a handful of police officers and locals now pass by.
Offices and schools are empy: everything is done online via videocall or online classes.
Barcelona’s GDP is massive, taking in over $177 billion annually. A large part of this economy is centred around tourism, which has now all but died. This means that hotels, Airbnb and the hospitality sector have in general taken a serious blow. One silver lining is that with so many vacant rental flats and hotel rooms, residents may be more able to afford to live in their own city once again. Supply and demand dictate that with a drop in demand, prices will have to come down to a lower equilibrium. Holiday accommodations may, over time, be converted back into less temporary accommodations and house residents once again.
Another knock-off effect of the drop in tourism is the expected decline in pickpocketing, selfie sticks, and all of the ‘tacky tourist’ amenities such as paella restaurants serving dinner earlier than most Spaniards would normally eat. Furthermore, residents can once again have some breathing space (quite literally) and shop in local markets without a horde of invading tourists that until recently were widely criticised by the local population.
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