Barcelona’s Epic Tourism Boom Is Over, Now the Crisis Begins: My Walk to the Beach

Owner of a small cafe that specializes in fine cakes and sandwiches tells me: “We’ll be lucky if we get half the normal number in July and August.” It’s now “all about damage control.”

By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET:

Yesterday, my wife and I took our first walk to the beach since Spain entered lockdown almost three and a half months ago. From there, we meandered through El Born, which together with Sant Pere and Santa Caterina, forms one of the four barrios that make up Barcelona’s old town. El Born’s shaded cobbled streets and plazas are — or at least were — ground-zero for Barcelona’s bustling tourism trade. But that trade has been decimated by the virus crisis, and the streets of El Born are half empty, many of the hotels are still closed and an eerie quiet pervades the once-thronged plazas.

In some parts, there are already visible signs of crisis. As in the darkest days of Spain’s last housing crisis (2010-13), boarded-up shops, bars, restaurants and other street-level businesses are everywhere. In one narrow three-block street called Flassaders, I counted nine shuttered businesses. Eight were already up for rent. Here are some samples:

Spain’s biggest property website, Idealista, is currently advertising 244 retail properties in El Born, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina. They range from tiny little shops on tucked-away alleyways to sprawling bars, restaurants and stores on some of the barrio’s busiest thoroughfares.

After years of relentless gentrification, El Born was already in trouble before Covid arrived. Retail rents had reached levels that many businesses could no longer pay. Petty street crime, much of it targeting tourists, had become rampant, and in some cases violent. And many tourists had begun to explore other neighborhoods such as Gracia and Sant Antoni. The only way for shops and other businesses to pay their rents and still survive was to target big-spending foreign tourists. But now they’ve gone. And when they come back, it will be in smaller numbers and shallower pockets.

Facing the prospect of continued sluggish sales, many local traders in El Born, rather than taking out more debt to pay their rents, have simply shut up shop. Yet despite the glut of properties on the market, the rents being advertised are still absurdly high, suggesting that many of the property owners — most of them well-heeled local families — haven’t quite accepted that market conditions have changed dramatically.

In Spain’s last financial crisis, El Born, and Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter as a whole, escaped the worst of the fallout, thanks to the rapid recovery and resurgence of the tourism industry. This time, it’s the travel and tourism industries that have been sledgehammered by the covid-inspired lockdowns, travel bans and other restrictions, leaving barrios like El Borne and Sant Pere on the front lines of this new crisis.

According to Barcelona Comerç, 91% of the city center’s shops have reopened. In a recent survey, around half of the association’s members said their sales have fallen by up to 25% while another a quarter said that sales had dropped by 50%.

So far, just over 3% of local traders in the city center have shut their stores, but this is likely to soar to 15% soon, since many stores have only stayed open to liquidate their stock. And “this figure could rise to 30% if structural measures are not taken to help the sector out,” says Barcelona Commerc’s president, Salva Vendrell.

The Spanish government has so far offered €4.25 billion in financial assistance to Spain’s tourism industry, mostly in the form of emergency loans. It pales in comparison to the €43 billion in forgone tourist euros already clocked up as a result of the crisis.

And the tourists have still not arrived.

On any normal Summer’s day, in any normal year, Barceloneta Beach, normally one of Europe’s busiest beaches, would be heaving with tourists — so much so that most Barcelona residents stay clear of the place. But this year is no normal year. I took this photo a couple of days ago:

Also, the day on which the photo was taken — June 23 — was no normal day. It was the eve of Saint John the Baptist Day, which is a public holiday in Catalonia. Normally, in the evening tens of thousands of Barcelona residents converge on the city’s beaches to usher in the Summer by downing copious volumes of alcohol, sitting around bonfires and letting off fireworks and firecrackers with the sort of reckless abandon that bureaucrats in Brussels are determined to stamp out.

This year, thanks to the novel coronavirus, the city’s beaches were closed to the public. So, many people arranged to spend the holiday in beach towns dotted up and down the coast, hopefully not taking the coronavirus with them. This partly explains why the streets of Barceloneta looked like this yesterday:

But there’s also the fact that Barcelona, like so many other parts of Europe, is suffering its worst ever tourism drought. With its borders tightly sealed, Spain registered zero tourist arrivals in April. In May, it received about 43,000 visitors, down 99.5% from last year.

In seven days’ time, the Spanish government will finally reopen Spain’s borders to international tourism. But travelers from 54 nations, including the U.S., Russia and Brazil, will probably still be barred from the bloc. And cruise ships will be banned from docking at Spanish ports for at least the whole of the summer.

Of the remaining nationalities that can travel to Europe, no one knows just how many will actually come. Some of the business owners I’ve spoken to are not exactly optimistic.

“We’ll be lucky if we get half the normal number in July and August,” says the owner of a small cafe in Barceloneta that specializes in fine cakes and sandwiches. This summer, she says, is now “all about damage control.”

Many Catalan business owners are hoping the domestic market will pick up some of the slack. But they’re not holding their breath. Despite the charm offensive being launched on all fronts by Catalonia’s regional government to try and lure holiday makers from other parts of Spain, with the slogan “Cataluña es tu casa” (Catalonia is your home), Catalan businesses know that most Spaniards still remember that roughly half of the people of Catalonia wanted to declare independence from Spain just three years ago. Those Spaniards who still hold a grudge will choose to spend their vacation bucks elsewhere.

That means that Barcelona — and many places like it in Europe — is about to have its quietest summer for many a year.

For many local residents who have had to put up with all the externalities of unfettered mass-tourism (myself included), it will probably make a welcome change. But for those whose jobs, businesses and rental income depend on tourism, the pain has only just begun. And it’s likely to end up affecting even those who are currently enjoying the idyllic — yet still slightly eerie — sight of quiet streets and empty beaches. By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET.

But the ECB went into high gear to soothe the pain of the banks. Read… Massive Credit Losses to Hit European Banks in Q2 and into 2021, Particularly When Debt Moratoriums Are Lifted

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  92 comments for “Barcelona’s Epic Tourism Boom Is Over, Now the Crisis Begins: My Walk to the Beach

  1. Petunia
    Jun 24, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Don’t worry, the US is now proposing giving taxpayers a $12K per person tax credit over three years to take vacations and travel. The more money you make in the US, the more tax advantages you get.

    This is while they are questioning whether people on social security really need another or any stimulus check. The govt doesn’t know many retired people have to work to survive and have lost income too.

    Just when you think you have seen everything, there’s more insanity in the works.

    • Whatever
      Jun 24, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      It was not “the US” suggesting this, it was one representative running for re-election trying to get a headline. It’s not in a bill. It is not in a proposal. One woman running for one of the 435 seats of congress suggested it.

    • RagnarD
      Jun 24, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      Can u find the inflation problem,
      In what u just wrote,
      for those on fixed / SS income? ;)

      Who the heck would want to try and manage this train wreck?

      Answer: only sociopaths who will try to “not waste this crisis”.

    • mtnwoman
      Jun 24, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      If that comes to pass I’ll use it to go visit New Zealand for a possible job opportunity.
      Of course, they don’t want us infected Americans like most of the civilized, controlling-COVID world.

      • Josap
        Jun 24, 2020 at 7:50 pm

        The tax credit would only be for travel in the U.S. Hotels, rental cars, meals, tickets to attractions. Of course, you have to spend the money to get the tax credit.

      • Willy Winky
        Jun 24, 2020 at 8:47 pm

        The NZ govt is painted into a corner now.

        Adern locked down completely for two months and that has smashed the economy.

        So now, she will be unable to open the borders until the Wuhan virus is wiped out (recedes or there is a vaccine) globally.

        If she reopens and the inevitable spike hits, she will be a dead woman walking.

        As a WHO epidemiologist mentioned to me in an email a couple of months ago:

        ‘Ah, NZ! They are fascinating. I am sure they will manage to stamp out the virus. And then they will have to have a 2-week quarantine for anyone who enters the country for the next 30 years or so. Will do wonders to tourism’

        As far as jobs in NZ go… that will be very difficult (even if the borders open)….. unless you have a very specialized skill.

        41% of the workforce is being subsidized … and they are being prioritized in terms of new hiring (and there is not much new hiring).

        Seeing another article referencing how masks prevent the spread of covid … this one was out of Japan… not recommending (or forcing) masks on people is like sending men to war without steel helmets.

        I find that rather odd… as in something is odd about this entire picture.

        • char
          Jun 25, 2020 at 7:41 am

          Tourism will be gone in 3 years if it stays this way so i don’t think you have to worry about jobs in 30 years time. The people will find other jobs.

        • intosh
          Jun 25, 2020 at 10:10 am

          “Wuhan virus”

          You know what? They should really think about renaming the Spanish Flu, the Kansas Flu.

          (Oh and by the way, you should review your punctuation usage — consider using commas instead of ellipsis.)

        • MC
          Jun 26, 2020 at 1:43 am

          Ellipses. Plural.

    • VeryAmused
      Jun 24, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      That is a pretty tasty tax credit. I barely like leaving my house but this would probably spur me to Las Vegas. I always wanted to visit one of those places you can pay to fire big guns.

      You know…for the children or something.

      • Willy Winky
        Jun 24, 2020 at 9:13 pm

        Try Cambodia … been quite a few times …

        Around 20 years ago on a boys weekend, we hired a driver … loaded the car up with a cooler of beers… stopped at the Happy Pizza outlet and ordered the Happy part … then drove 90 minutes to some godforsaken place….

        We were met by some dude (probably ex Khmer Rouge)… who showed us his Big Box of Weapons… we chose AK 47’s… grenades… and the piece de resistance… an RPG…

        We loaded up and drove a short distance to the ‘shooting range’

        After blasting away with the AKs and tossing grenades into a pond it came time to fire the RPG…. we were all a bit fearful of this menacing (no doubt 1970’s vintage) contraption but after a couple of more beers and a bit of Happy, the Quiet (actually Loud) American in our entourage volunteered to let rip.

        He mounted the launcher on his shoulder and the soldier guy promptly turned it around to face the right direction …

        He pointed it into the bush then pulled the trigger —- it roared smoke and fire out the back end in one hell of a blast (we of course had no ear protection)…. the projectile flew maybe half a km then exploded in the bush … (I am sure someone had gone ahead to make sure no farmers were in the way of that….)

        In a state of shock… we made our way back to the car and headed back to Phnom Penh.

        There are other options near the Killing Fields thing.. but as far as I know they only have automatic weapons… nothing very heavy duty…

        If you are into big explosions you need to get a little further out of town.

        • roddy6667
          Jun 24, 2020 at 9:42 pm

          I was just reading the travel restrictions for outsiders in Cambodia. You need $50,000 (US) in travel insurance against COVID-19. Try finding that. Also you need to get tested and a lot of other stuff when you enter that will cost about $3000 US. In other words, KEEP OUT. I guess this won’t be the year I visit Angkor Wat. Or fire an RPG.

        • Peter
          Jun 25, 2020 at 5:12 am

          I was offered the same shooting excursion once, while on vacation in Siem Reap. For an extra $20 dollars I was offered the option of shooting a real live cow. I declined the offer.

  2. MonkeyBusiness
    Jun 24, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Well, the last time I was in Barcelona, I arrived the day after a massive protest against tourism. They got what they wished for.

    I enjoyed my trip to Barcelona. Ate at many mercats there, but the one place that I enjoyed the most was El Vaso de Oro. Steak and foie gras combo. Can probably eat that all day.

    • Susan Boland shepherd
      Jun 26, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Ahhhh…Barcelona…is truly filled with wonderfulpeople, multinational cuisine and is georgeous. I hope I get to go back soon. The last time I was there was the Feast of the Epiphany in January..the festival of the three kings…arriving by boat for a huge parade. The place is magical

  3. SaltyGolden
    Jun 24, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    “RONS CREW”

  4. Macro Investor
    Jun 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    If those photos were representative, why would tourists ever go there? Ugly beach looks like an industrial site. Gratified alley ways.

    Is some bar or restaurant really the reason to travel somewhere?

    • Jun 24, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      Macro Investor,

      When shopkeepers roll up the shutters, the graffiti is invisible.

      Maybe you should go to Barcelona and help out those folks. Beautiful place, you’ll see. But watch out for pickpockets.

      • JimmyJo
        Jun 24, 2020 at 5:46 pm

        Is that girl with the facial piercings and the shaved head still begging from people sitting at outdoor cafes around Las Ramblas?
        “I can’t find a job, can you help me please”.

        My reply, “Do you have a mirror? You look like a slob and a freak with a face full of metal. No one is going to hire you.” She moved on to the next sucker, who pulled out money and handed to her without so much as even a thank you.

        The real economic barometer, are the Africans still displaying luxury knock offs on parachutes that they can scoop up when the cops approach?

      • raxadian
        Jun 24, 2020 at 7:14 pm

        Don’t forget the risk of infection, prices even the locals think are too high, an abusive government that tries to tax everything they can, and without the coronavirus around, so many tourists you feel like a sardine in a can.

        As it is, many people won’t go due to fear of contagion and due to fear of being unable to leave if they lock up again.

        • Willy Winky
          Jun 24, 2020 at 9:29 pm

          Who needs a lockdown when every day you see headlines screaming ‘Record Infections!!!!’

          People will self-lockdown even though if they are not old and/or diseased they are highly unlikely to die from this.

          For most people (and I know a dozen or so) who contract Wuhan Flu, the symptoms are generally that of a cold. None of them even went to the doctor….

          And loads of people exhibit no symptoms at all.

    • Frederick
      Jun 25, 2020 at 12:17 am

      I’ve been to Barcelona and the architecture is nice but I prefer Madrid and Warsaw myself Much less touristy and much safer Barcelona is overrun by street criminals as Wolf stated I’ve very little tolerance for that nonsense

  5. Ilikeitdark
    Jun 24, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    I’m from the US but have been living here for about 18 years. Looking forward to a quieter summer than normal, but feel bad for all the small businesses and especially for the workers. Going to be rough.

  6. MiTurn
    Jun 24, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    While in my head I can sympathize with the working people and business owners who are losing income due to the lockdown, I can also appreciate how much nicer a place these tourist-dependent locales will become for everyone else. Crowds and crowds of tourists often ruin places for the folks who live in these places as their homes.

    Tourism can be a drag.

    • Saltcreep
      Jun 24, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      Some of the most thought evoking places I’ve blown through have been some Greek mountainside villages gradually being reclaimed by vegetation, as they’ve been deserted because everyone has descended to the coast to earn money off tourists…

      • AdamSmyth
        Jun 25, 2020 at 6:47 am

        Shhh! Keep it quiet about mainland Greece.
        Besides, Barcelona has many delights – beaches ain’t one. You have head towards Costa Brava for the good stuff.

    • BJ
      Jun 25, 2020 at 6:01 am

      Presumably you never leave your house and visit anywhere outside your hamlet.

  7. Charles Ponzi
    Jun 24, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Good article, well written and interesting. That said I find it hard to have sympathy for the tourist industry. Restaurants, hotels, airlines and cruise lines had years if not decades of high demand and exorbitant profit margins. Airlines reduced legroom, Cruise lines added phantom bottles of wine to final bills, restaurants reduced portion sizes, and hotels raised rack rates and added resort charges.

    Now after a couple of months, suddenly thy are all bode line bankrupt. Have to wonder where all the money went. No I’m not going to help out these folks.

    Schumpeter’s gale of creative destruction” will resolve the situation. The rentier class, the rapacious restauranteurs and the haughty hoteliers will be replaced by merchants who have rediscover the meanings of customer service and hospitality

    • Garry Davies
      Jun 24, 2020 at 10:30 pm

      I agree.

    • AdamSmyth
      Jun 25, 2020 at 6:52 am

      Hear hear! Might extend this line of thought to the Italian Riviera et al. They all need to reinvent themselves and stop feeding off mass tourism.
      That said, tourists also need to kick the cheap holidays habit. There is still value to be had but it requires effort on both sides.

    • Jordi S.
      Jun 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      Completamente de acuerdo con su análisis.

  8. jan van eck
    Jun 24, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Since Mr. Richter has so savagely edited my one and only previous and quite innocuous post, I shall be extra reserved here. I would only mention that, down the coast a piece from Barcelona, sits Alicante, which is an interesting enclave or exclave of Brits. There was this vast construction boom to put up houses, all sold to British expats, with the result that you were for all the world back in England, minus the damp rainy weather of course.

    Now that the UK has dumped the EU, and all these terrors of the Virus, the question arises: what do the expats now do? Flee for home? Abandon Spain? And then what, with the collapse of the property market? Who are the buyers going to be? Albanians, perhaps?

    Spain is in serious trouble.

    • R Hughes
      Jun 24, 2020 at 7:57 pm

      Appreciate the reports on this part of Spain. Future reports encouraged. Thanks

      • jan van eck
        Jun 27, 2020 at 8:31 am

        The ultimate underlying issue there is water; not enough of it to go around. Water is being taken from the central highlands and piped to the hotels on the coast, for the tourists. That leaves the orchards without water, with the result that, pre-COVID, the farmers were already cutting down every second olive tree in a desperate effort to save some of their product. An olive tree takes a decade just to get to its first crop, so the losses are staggering.

        What are those people ever going to do? There is insufficient water to re-plant, and even if the farmers did, the orchards would take at least a decade of unproductive growth to get back to where they were. Spain is in a world of hurt.

        On the plus side, a new market has started up for the detritus of the olive-oil production. After the oil is pressed, the rest – stems, leaves, skin, whatever – is dried, baled, loaded onto a small coaster, and shipped off to various electric coal power plants, including up in Denmark. It seems the Greens are pressing the govts and power operators to get “off coal” so burning “biomass” is all the rage. Hey, at least it is a few extra bucks for the impoverished.

        Spain is an arid, desert country. Will there ever be enough water for both the agriculture and the tourist sectors? I don’t see it. Could water be shipped in by tankers returning empty from the UK, Canada, the USA, heading back to the Middle East? That just might work – clean the tanks, drop suction hose in the Hudson River upstream at Albany, NY, and fill ‘er up. Does anybody have the imagination to actually do that? Of course not.

    • Jun 24, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      jan van eck,

      I mostly removed your email address from the comment. I don’t allow email addresses to be put into the comment.

      • jan van eck
        Jun 27, 2020 at 8:09 am

        Then just exactly how do you propose the woman who has the house for sale in central Vermont could ever reach me? She mentioned it; I left the address for contact. You blew it up. Not exactly friendly, in the circumstances that pertain, now is it?

        • Jun 27, 2020 at 10:00 am

          jan van eck,

          Look, you tried to abuse my site for your own commercial purposes. I get spam and scam stuff with email addresses and phone numbers all the time in this comment section. Exactly zero see the light of the day.

          And it was your first comment. So no way.

          As others have done, you can contact me by email, and I’ll let her know that you contacted me, and I’ll give her your email address. This assumes that she uses a functional email (many commenters don’t). If people use a fake email, it means they don’t want to be contacted under any circumstances.

    • Prof. Emeritus
      Jun 24, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      The author of this very article seems to be just such an expat, so I’d imagine offensive wording may lead to moderation. Although I don’t think their main reason to choose Spain is changed: the climate is still excellent, the EU still hasn’t banned expats (people with money are always welcome) and the UK is still an awful place to go back to (unless one was born into an upper-class family).

      • roddy6667
        Jun 25, 2020 at 7:36 am

        Right now the citizens of many, many countries are banned from Spain. Expats from the EU only.

      • jan van eck
        Jun 27, 2020 at 8:17 am

        My wife had a house in Alicante, her father was the Rear Admiral of the Fleet. Upper class enough for your taste?

        There was no Spanish to hear anywhere. Everyone was a Brit expat. All the shops, service establishments, all English. Might as well have been in Gibraltar. Or Malta. Or Plymouth.

    • CRV
      Jun 25, 2020 at 1:56 am

      Funny how people always say ‘the market collapsed’ when they mean prices went down. There is always a market. But with falling prices it’s not a good market for sellers. For buyers it’s a very good market. Lots to choose from.

      • Frederick
        Jun 25, 2020 at 5:17 am

        True 1992 was a VERY good market for buyers in the Northeastern US especially New England The bargains were unreal Too bad I had all my cash tied up in a bankruptcy in the Sag Harbor, NY

      • basil
        Jun 27, 2020 at 10:40 am

        wow what a story a few months ago they fod not want tourists they got there wish and hey its s great thing less inflation

    • craig
      Jun 25, 2020 at 3:15 am

      Difficult to believe that it is possible to have an interesting place filled with British expats .

  9. Beachboy
    Jun 24, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    I live in one of spains largest cities on one of the tourist islands. Walking around the city and its beach you’d think the virus never happened except for the few people in the street wearing a mask (maybe less than20%). The locals are out filling the bars, beach and shops. However go to one of the tourist areas in the south and you expect to see tumble weed blowing by, everything is shuttered and the commercial centres deserted. Will be interesting to see what hapens next month. Fortunately here they are more focused on getting everything up snd running for october and the winter season.

    • Willy Winky
      Jun 24, 2020 at 10:00 pm

      Australia announced a few days ago that they will not allow Aussies to travel overseas (unless on urgent business) until at least 2021.

      Assume that if the virus is still in circulation that this is going to be the global policy. Nothing will change until at least next year…..

      I would not count on anything but anemic domestic tourism anywhere for a very long time.

      I have also read that tourism directly and indirectly employs 20% of the global workforce.

      We have a bit of a problem here.

      • Fat Chewer.
        Jun 24, 2020 at 10:57 pm

        Yeah, that has more to do with stopping the brain drain of progressives leaving the world’s newest idiocracy.
        #Never let a good crisis go to waste
        #We are all in this together (with a gun to the head.)

  10. MonkeyBusiness
    Jun 24, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Ok, this is not Barcelona specific, but a local startup, Sonder just had a Series E raise. For anyone not knowing, Sonder is a “hospitality” startup that’s kinda AirBnb.

    They claim that occupancy rates is back up to pre pandemic levels although that’s a bit deceiving since they got rid of quite a few properties (2000 out of 14000). Revenue numbers are also not disclosed.

    Anyway, travel might resume to some degree, it seems.

    • Jun 24, 2020 at 8:53 pm

      Are people driving or taking the bus? Because flights are still down by 70% to 80%, with international flights down more. So this sounds like a lot of hype to me. Gotta stir up the excitement, dude. This is big money.

      • Willy Winky
        Jun 24, 2020 at 10:12 pm

        Some thoughts:

        We put our cottage back up on Airbnb and are just over 50% occupancy for July …. we cut the rates by 1/3…. ski season starts tomorrow. This is all domestic tourism – people driving in from other cities on the south island mainly…

        Also we are in wine country a bit outside of Queenstown… there are very few accommodation options here (no hotels) … and lots of people prefer not to stay in the busy city area…. so we are not competing with the in-town properties. We are still at USD100+ per night so worth the effort.

        In town I am seeing hotel rooms for as low as USD40 per night (these are decent quality rooms) …. I drive by in the evenings a couple of times per week and there are not a lot of lights on in the hotels….

        I wonder how low the rates are on Sonder to achieve those occupancy rates….

        I wonder if Sonder is being truthful…. given there will be loads of hotels in the city offering incredibly low rates … how are they able to maintain pre covid numbers without hosts massively slashing rates….

        Perhaps Sonder is using some form of circular financing? That seems to be all the rage at the moment

        • char
          Jun 25, 2020 at 8:18 am

          Sonder, “in 36 cities worldwide”

          So i count the number of cities you can book a stay.

          That number is 28.

          Does that answer your question of truthfulness.

      • MonkeyBusiness
        Jun 24, 2020 at 11:10 pm

        Well the thing is they also changed their business model a bit i.e. going for longer term stays. Still it’s SHOCKING that they managed to raise 170 million dollars. Someone’s definitely swallowing their pitch, hook line and sinker.

        And of course I agree with what you said about planes, etc, but perhaps RV? The CEO of our company will be driving down to San Diego from San Francisco next week with family. Perhaps he’s one of those guys renting from Sonder.

        • Willy Winky
          Jun 25, 2020 at 6:09 pm

          FOMO on the next ‘Wiredcard’….

    • LeClerc
      Jun 25, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      The last member of the Sonderkommando died not too long ago.

      Can anyone guess why nobody in Germany ever registered the “Sonder”
      domain?

  11. Charles Ponzi
    Jun 24, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Guess the gale of creative destruction blew away my comment.

    Que Lastima.

  12. Tinky
    Jun 24, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    I live in Lisbon, and can report similar observations. The scale of damage is, of course, smaller than Spain, but I have already seen a number of nice shops and restaurants shutter for good, rather than pay relatively high rents with such uncertain futures.

    It’s painful to watch the devastation unfold.

  13. Martin
    Jun 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    I was stuck in Barcelona for 3 days 10 years ago with the Icelandic volcano and fell in love with the place.
    I didn’t expect the African hookers 3 streets back from Las Ramblas to be accosting tourists in broad daylight though.

  14. KGC
    Jun 24, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Those high rents are symptomatic of landlords who have mortgaged their property to finance their “well-heeled local families” lifestyle. They can’t reduce the rents because to do so would mean that they’re not so well off (saving face is not just an Asian thing), the banks still require they pay down the mortgages, and in many cases they have no other income. When you raise your kids to expect they will never have to face the bottom rungs on the ladder of success, and they are due respect and entitlements due to their social status, it can be hard when the money machine stops.

    It’s going to be very interesting watching what happens if the banks ever try to collect on those underwater mortgages, and not just in Spain.

    25 years ago Barcelona was interesting. But I don’t plan to return.

    • Xabier
      Jun 25, 2020 at 3:48 am

      Although the Catalans are proverbially said to be ‘good with money’, a surprising number fall into the trap of needing to look wealthy – all my cousins are like that. Some because they are social climbers, or it’s good for business contacts, etc.

      The wisest and wealthiest Catalan I know, not a relation, just likes to hang out in his vineyards, dressed like crap, pruning his vines.

      He lobs money at his wife and daughters so they can cut a good figure, but he doesn’t give a damn.

  15. Josap
    Jun 24, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Barcelona is my favorite city on earth. Food, wine, people, more food, chocolates, Kava.

    • Frederick
      Jun 25, 2020 at 12:24 am

      Every city in Europe has all of those things Some without all the criminality associated with tourism

      • Aixan
        Jun 25, 2020 at 4:01 am

        Barcelona is still nice european city.
        Other cities like Paris or Warsaw are transitioning into 3rd world slums,
        with garbage all around and ethnic mafias controlling more and more areas.

        • Just Some Random Guy
          Jun 25, 2020 at 8:46 am

          It is so sad what’s happened to Paris. I spent a significant amount of time there mid 90s to early 00s. I went back after about 15 years and was gobsmacked at the changes. The city is now basically one giant slum with a few pockets of old Paris remaining, for tourists. In 20 years, those pockets will probably disappear as well.

      • char
        Jun 25, 2020 at 8:23 am

        Weather and sun are missing in a lot of European cities.

    • Jon
      Jun 25, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Been to Barcelona many times for some reason it didn’t resonate with me.
      The reason being may be: I am very difficult to please and am very very discerning, holding contrarian views unswayed/unimpressed on by common hype.

  16. Jun 24, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    Crush the Peasants!,

    I’m so sick and tired of reading this bullcrap that this virus is no big deal because it mostly kills people who are older, have high blood pressure, or have dark skin (that last part is never mentioned but is always there as soon as you say that this virus is no big deal). This is code you’re spouting off here — don’t you see how heinous this is?

    Everyone is “vulnerable” – except maybe toddlers, and even they have now shown to come up with weird symptoms. Now ICUs are filling up with younger people. They’re more likely to survive than some others, but they might leave with permanent organ damage and what not.

    • Tony in Aus
      Jun 24, 2020 at 9:43 pm

      So true, and I haven’t seen confirmation that getting it means you’re immune thereafter either (and if you are, how long for).

      If you can get something like this every year or so, and each time it increasingly and permanently damages your organs, it follows that it would be fatal any given individual (eventually).

      Wow, what a downer.

    • Willy Winky
      Jun 24, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      Agree -everyone is vulnerable to both the flu and Covid – but those who are dying are primarily the old – and already sick.

      From the UK :

      Over 95% of “COVID Deaths” recorded in England and Wales had potentially serious comorbidities, according to statistics released by NHS England.

      Ages 0-19: 3
      Ages 20-39: 32
      Ages 40-59: 255
      Ages 60-79: 551
      Ages 80+: 477

      The percentages are similar for all countries. Check the Statista site for details on Spain, Italy, etc…..

      Copied from the CDC site:

      The overall burden of influenza for the 2017-2018 season was an estimated 45 million influenza illnesses, 21 million influenza-associated medical visits, 810,000 influenza-related hospitalizations, and 61,000 influenza-associated deaths (Table: Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season — United States, 2010-11 through 2017-18 Influenza Seasons).

      Michael Burry wrote a good piece on this on Bloomberg in March — he was a surgeon and obviously is a money man now so he is well-placed to opine on this subject.

      What he suggested was protecting the the elderly and sick (as we try to do when viruses are in circulation)… and get on with it.

      Yes people will get sick and die — but lockdowns will destroy the economy and kill far more people and cause far more suffering in the long run.

      We are seeing the futility of lockdowns… as soon as they are loosened the virus surges… so you need to stay locked down till there is a vaccine (there is NO SARS vaccine… to this day)….

      Or you follow the Burry advice.

      Copied from the CDC site:

      The overall burden of influenza for the 2017-2018 season was an estimated 45 million influenza illnesses, 21 million influenza-associated medical visits, 810,000 influenza-related hospitalizations, and 61,000 influenza-associated deaths (Table: Estimated Influenza Disease Burden, by Season — United States, 2010-11 through 2017-18 Influenza Seasons).

      The US followed the Burry advice back then… and the US survived.

      Sweden is not locking down – yep – lots of infections — and old people are dying …

      No good outcomes with this but I am thinking lockdowns are the wrong choice – they will not work — and if we continue on this road — they will lead to a collapse of the global economy.

      • James
        Jun 24, 2020 at 10:58 pm

        About 5% of Americans are immune at this point. This thing won’t stop until we’re at 70%. Many hospitals are full despite lockdowns. Opening the country up is going to cause 65% (250 million) of Americans to get this in the span of 3 months. Many will not be able to get medical care and it would easily kill 1-2 million. How many shoppers do you think you’ll have when all that is unfolding? The only course of action is to pay people to stay home and wait for a vaccine.

  17. BuySome
    Jun 24, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Judging by the size of that fin in the bay, Sharktosaurus must have eaten all the Sand Sausages. Their gonna need Raymond Burr to deal with this freak ‘o nature, hopefully before the second wave breaks.

  18. Olivier
    Jun 24, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    @Nick Barcelona is a city of 1.6M; the tourist-infested part is just a handful districts in the historic center. Even if things are dire there, is it really a crisis for the city as a whole?

    • Prof. Emeritus
      Jun 24, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      It is – and not just for Barcelona, but for almost every major city in Europe. In most European taxation scheme most local taxes – that the local governance can keep in it’s balance sheet – originate from tourism. They can’t tax ordinary businesses and residents as much, so if tourism provides about ~20% of a local economy it may very well represent a -40% loss in tax income for the city.

      • MonkeyBusiness
        Jun 24, 2020 at 11:21 pm

        No wonder every European country is pushing to open by July 1st. Come hell or heaven, Coronavirus or not, please come visit!!!!

        • Frederick
          Jun 25, 2020 at 12:27 am

          I need to travel to Poland to deal with my apartment there but cannot because US passport holders are excluded Hope that changes by autumn I was planning a road trip this year instead of flying stopping at various places along the way Their loss as well obviously

        • char
          Jun 25, 2020 at 8:26 am

          I think it is people who live in the US, not those that reside in Europe. Get a proof a local residence and it may be possible to go to Poland

    • AdamSmyth
      Jun 25, 2020 at 6:59 am

      Err, try 7m. The whole of Catalunya is approx 7m. Not big as modern cities go today but rather concentrated.

      • AdamSmyth
        Jun 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

        Catalunya – 7.5m, apologies.

  19. joel
    Jun 24, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    I last visited Barcelona summer of 1970 via eurail pass. Now I visit by Youtube everyday, Joan Chamorrow. He leads a music school for kids. Big band and various size jazz groups you name it. You will be awstruck by the quality.

  20. Anthony
    Jun 25, 2020 at 1:32 am

    Well the Brits are coming, maybe not so much Barcelona but a bit further south……I know quite a few that are chomping on the bit to get on a plane……For my family members who own places down there, I’ve volunteered to drive them……after all, a couple of months in Spain will do me the world of good…maybe

    • Xabier
      Jun 25, 2020 at 3:51 am

      We’ll know things are ‘back to normal’ when some Brit idiot kills himself falling off a balcony this summer.

      A regular news item of the tourist season.

      Always a male: I suppose the fat drunken girls are flat on their backs the whole time and can’t fall.

      • Gerrard White
        Jun 25, 2020 at 6:20 am

        @xabier

        In an article about how badly tourists are needed it’s ok to accept they are needed, at least implicitly, but which allows you to vilify them at the same time?
        Apart from anything else its not a very solid business plan – perhaps one reason why tourism is a fragile business

  21. carla
    Jun 25, 2020 at 6:37 am

    That’s usually what I look for in traveling. An unusual situation where extreme bargains can be found.
    But ( and I may be wrong) the government is imposing serious penalties against not wearing mask/social distancing.
    Well, if that’s the case, no thank you. Might as well vaction in a concentration camp.
    That also might explain why there’s a huge tourism boom in the center of the US (from MS to MI) where freedom and a return to normal life can be found, and at a reasonable price.
    Europe is mostly dead.

    • Winston Smith
      Jun 25, 2020 at 8:04 am

      I agree completely. For me, Spain in January/February was the perfect break from Canadian winter. Now that everyone seems to have lost their minds, there are no more escapes for me. Maybe Nicaragua?

  22. Ric
    Jun 25, 2020 at 7:21 am

    You win some Barcelona, and you lose some.
    Now is the time to reflect on how much things cost and focus on the local trade…

    They are ( and will always be ) your bread and butter.
    There has to be a lull in the market for now.

    One thing is for sure, strategy is the key to bringing the right trade and at the right price…

    Before the Covid 19 pandemic situation, local people were either complaining about low cost backpackers spending little money but renting cheap apartments.
    Hotels complained that this was ruining their trade.

    Local people started to protest against the tourists saying they didn’t want more and to go home… ( certain types of tourists, I should say, however, a tourist is a tourist regardless of what they do when they enter your country on a tourist visa…) due to too many cruise ships and low cost flights.

    Now all that has changed and once more another stalemate is upon you.
    You win some, you lose some.
    What goes around will certainly come ( back to Barcelona ) around.
    La ley de Murphy or if you prefer, That’s life!

    • char
      Jun 25, 2020 at 8:31 am

      Tourist visa? Most of them are EU citizens. They don’t need visas.

  23. Just Some Random Guy
    Jun 25, 2020 at 8:29 am

    BarTHelona

  24. char
    Jun 25, 2020 at 8:37 am

    “After years of relentless gentrification, El Born was already in trouble before Covid arrived.”

    It was not gentrification but touristification. That is completely different

  25. Island teal
    Jun 25, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Interesting article and comments. The combo of Spain and Brits reminds me of the movie “Sexy Beast”. 😊😊

    • Mike Smith
      Jun 27, 2020 at 6:44 pm

      I don’t know the movie but yes this is a startlingly interesting article and the comments should not be missed. As a Black American who loves Barcelona, has stared down Moroccan hustles ( I from New York we don’t play), has crashed on a dear catalan friend’s sofa, met Jordi Savall, enjoys calçots, has apologized to a Nigeria prostitute for disrespecting her, and made a pilgrimage to Monserrat, I find most of these comments — parochial if not down right racist. Maybe in the long run it is a good thing that Spain learns to live without British expat and tourist. Anyway Barcelona is a great city much in the way that Los Angeles is a great city. You need to spend real time there to know it. These people don’t get it.

  26. max
    Jun 27, 2020 at 2:01 am

    This is all very familiar to me wandering this route to El Born. Sagardi the tapas were 1 euro a pop way back then. Last time I went was 2.50, so tourists definitely helped the owner buy something nice at those prices.

    I had a business in Barcelona during the last downturn in 2008 and had a few properties as short term lets in the El born area. To be honest I never liked it. Too many Moroccans robbing our guests and an it has an edgy feeling to it.

    The same thing you mention about rents being ridiculous again. When we started in 2003 rents were as low as 10 euro per m2. By the time 2007 came we were looking at stuff for 20 eur per m2 around the Eixample area. You need these black swan events to bring stuff back down to earth and reset the clock on the economy.

  27. Jp
    Jun 28, 2020 at 11:46 am

    Well. The Spanish, French, Italians, etc were very vocal about anti-Asian tourist sentiment for years. Now they got their wish and don’t like the taste of humble pie.

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