Barcelona Mayor Supports Limiting Cruise Ships and Passengers

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Barcelona’s city council announced plans to limit the number of cruise ship passengers and reduce port terminals to address the city’s overcrowding issues.

Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni made the announcement during a press conference on May 24, 2024. The move comes in response to Barcelona’s significant rise in cruise tourism, which reached 3.6 million passengers in 2023.

Just last October, Barcelona banned cruise ships from docking at the World Trade Center area and Muelle Barcelona Norte, particularly favored by cruise lines because of their proximity to La Rambla, one of the city’s most popular attractions.

Cruise Ships Docked in Barcelona, Spain
Cruise Ships Docked in Barcelona, Spain (Photo Credit: Iglwch)

The regulation, which began on October 22 following a 2018 agreement between the port authorities and Barcelona city council, required ships to dock further from central tourist areas to improve air quality and reduce congestion. It closed earlier, the Maremagum port, which is closest to Barcelona’s Old Town.

Although less than a year in effect, the changes have little impact on slowing congestion. In fact, in June 2024 alone, the Port of Barcelona is scheduled to receive 82 ships, including the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Sea from Royal Caribbean International on June 2, 23, and 30, and MSC Cruises’ 6,334-passenger MSC Grandiosa on June 4, 11, 18, and 25.

During the event, Collboni emphasized the need to control the influx of one-day visitors from mega-ships like these who contribute to the city’s rising congestion, saying, “The increase in the number of cruise passengers is around 8% annually. I want to say, we are reaching a limit, and we need to put a cap on the figure.”

Of 2023 visitors, 1.6 million were one-day tourists who spent only a few hours in the city.

Although tourism represents 14.5% of Barcelona’s gross domestic product, the head of tourism for Barcelona city council, Jordi Valls, warned that exceeding the city’s capacity could diminish the value visitors bring.

Laia Bonet, the deputy mayor, also said during the press conference that while there is no specific date for signing the new agreement, the step is crucial to managing the tourist flow.

Attempting to Curb Overtourism

Last year, 803 cruise ships called in Barcelona, bringing 3.5 million passengers. It was a 13.7% increase over 2019’s pre-pandemic records.

Barcelona’s new plan to limit cruise ship passengers includes negotiating with the city’s port authorities to reduce the number of terminals. Currently, five terminals are in operation, with one under construction and a seventh planned.

Read Also: Majorca Advances Plans to Further Limit Cruise Ship Entries

The Tarragona Cruise port, which will cater to mega ships, began construction in June 2023, while the Terminal G at the Adossat wharf terminal, anticipated to be the final terminal, will be operational by spring 2027.

Didac Navarro of the Stop Cruises campaign group, told iNews, “The roads and pavements in the center of the city and near the Sagrada Familia are already saturated with cruise tourists.”

Navarro supports the city’s move, fearing that without action, the number of cruise tourists could soon reach 5 million annually.

Cruise Ships Docked in Barcelona, Spain
Cruise Ships Docked in Barcelona, Spain (Photo Credit: Haland / Shutterstock)

Several European cities have taken steps similar to Barcelona’s partial ban and proposed passenger cap. Venice, for instance, implemented a ban on large cruise ships entering its historic center in 2021. In April of this year, it began imposing a tourist tax requiring all-day visitors to register and pay a €5.00 fee.

Amsterdam also introduced measures to limit cruise ship traffic. The city redirected large cruise ships to dock at a more remote terminal rather than at the city center’s Passenger Terminal Amsterdam.

Similarly, Palma de Mallorca restricted the number of cruise ships allowed to dock each day in 2022, capping it at three, with only one ship carrying over 5,000 passengers. Earlier this month, it was announced it plans to extend its ban.

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