This Week in Travel News: The European City is Dying, and it’s All Our Fault | The number of people who actually live in Barcelona’s Gothic district is dropping fast, and it’s not the only European city facing this drastic problem.
By Michael Fraiman
Every Friday, our online editor rounds up the week’s biggest travel headlines. Here are this week’s:
If you’re a North American complaining about how expensive European cities are, you don’t even know the half of it. Deutsche Welle, an international German broadcaster, published a report this week on how the continent’s great cities are in a population free fall because of mass tourism, short-term leases and impossibly high prices. In the main Gothic district of Barcelona, the local population has dropped from 27,470 in 2006 to 15,624 at the end of 2015. As one elderly man told them of his eviction, “This was my village. I had it all here, my friends, my shops, I got married here, my children were born here, and I thought I would die here… I feel displaced.”
It’s a gut-wrenching problem to which there is no easy solution—I mean, I’ve visited Barcelona, so am I partly to blame? It seems preposterous, but then again, when 30 million annual travellers to Barcelona throw up their hands in innocence, someone’s got to accept responsibility. As global populations increase, governments will have to find a way to control prices without impeding tourism. And Spain isn’t alone: the downtown cores of nearly all major European cities have this price-control issue, including Paris, Amsterdam and Venice (we’ve written about how the Italian tourism minister is floating the idea of charging tourists to visit the city’s most famous sites). In Berlin, the government more strictly controls how much property a person can lease and for how long, which may indicate a beacon for the future. All told, the plus side is that it’s easier than ever to live in Barcelona—provided you don’t actually come from Barcelona.
Meanwhile, if your opinion on this mass-tourism problem is that it is a pile of 💩, then congratulations—Kayak has a campaign for you. The booking website this week launched the ability to search for destinations by emoji, which I honestly thought was as dumb as it sounded until I saw they had a 16-part poll wherein the public can decide which emoji represents which city and suddenly found myself proud that the overwhelming majority of poll-takers agreed that 🦄 obviously represents Reykjavik. However, I think the poll falls apart in the voting public’s overwhelming American bias. Apparently everyone so far thinks surfing is Honolulu, skiing is Denver and coffee is Seattle. (More than Istanbul, Nairobi or Bogota? Gimme a break.) You shouldn’t let this 😟 you, of course. It’s a fun way to kick off the weekend. Happy Friday! 🛩 🤹♀️ 👍🏻 ✨ 🦑