Six hundred euros. Per day. If you are the type of traveller who habitually spends some 600 euros a day, then Barcelona wants to hear from you. An administration has now put a price tag on the quality tourist, the “premium” tourist in fact, and the daily going rate is 600 euros. At least.
We’ve all known that when administrations refer to quality tourists, they have their sights on the amount of cash that these tourists will part with. Up to now, however, there hasn’t necessarily been a defined monetary amount, unless the tourists are Chinese, as they are easily good for a grand a day (minimum), as suggested by all-important studies of spending power.
As not all tourists are Chinese, the Barcelona 600 is more general. Never mind the nationality, feel the acceptable level of quality to qualify as a “premium” tourist. Moreover, says Turisme de Barcelona, a member of the 600 club will be seeking “unique experiences, the search for authenticity and genuine experiences that add value”. A 600-er likes to “feel part of the community and to know the culture of the place” he or she visits.
An old university mate of mine has lived in Barcelona for donkey’s years. Authenticity? Not half. Steer well clear of Las Ramblas. The bars of backstreet Barcelona are the places to go. A euro for a caña and a tapa. Feel part of the community? You will, and if you were to spend 600 euros, you would be extraordinarily drunk and incapable of movement.
Barcelona is a bit odd in the same way that Palma’s odd. The town hall has a councillor for tourism, Francesc Marcé, just like Palma has a councillor - Elena Navarro, of whom very little is ever heard. This may be due to the fact that Palma’s tourism is more associated with the head of the Palma 365 Foundation, Pedro Homar. And this is where the oddness creeps in. Unlike most other appointments, his is not political. In fact, he first took charge when the Partido Popular were ruling the city. Regardless of political complexion, he’s left to get on with things, and he does a pretty decent job.
It may be that he wishes to compare notes with Marian Muro. She is Barcelona’s director of tourism. Formerly the Catalonia government’s tourism director general and having held senior positions with the ACAVE travel agencies association and the Grupo Julià coach transport firm, she is well qualified for the post. And politics seem to have very little to do with it. Is Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau not meant to be some form of anti-tourism devil? Muro’s appointment, which was just before the pandemic, would suggest not.
There again, and the 600 implies this, Barcelona is a further example of a left-wing administration more than happy to welcome the wealthy into its midst and to ignore the hoi polloi who, if they have any sense, would make a beeline for the economy-class backstreets and give Las Ramblas a wide berth.
Marian Muro has explained that “we seek quality tourism with high value added that values our idiosyncrasies and respects our culture and customs at an appropriate price” - 600 euros a day. “You have to look for the best tourism. Quantity doesn’t matter, but the quality.”
So, never mind the quantity (the numbers of tourists), feel the quality. Feel it indeed. A metaphorical bulging wallet for these contactless times. But isn’t this really a case of never mind the quantity, feel the quantity in terms of how much the premium tourist will spend?
Respecting the culture, feeling part of the community and all that, but what, above all, does any administration crave? Loadsamoney. And I wonder somewhat about this community connection.
Does staying in a hotel give the well-heeled traveller this feeling? Or can it be better experienced in an apartment? Ada Colau has been at war with Airbnb ever since she became mayor.
Nevertheless, for Colau the premium tourist is a remedy to saturation. Cut the number of tourists but increase the value of those who remain and trust they are indeed respectful of culture and customs. This is what Palma wants, as does Mallorca, and it’s not just the government who says this, as the hoteliers say so as well. Everyone’s hunting for the premium, but not everyone has expressed this in as starkly monetary terms.
To give an idea as to the quantity represented by a 600 daily rate, one only has to consider average daily spending as reported in the monthly surveys. In 2019, for example, the highest average in Mallorca was 164 euros per person per day in May. The lowest was 101 in January.
Up to six times as much. Mallorca will be looking at Barcelona with envy and interest. A premium campaign won’t be long in the designing.