La Boqueria market in Barcelona. (Photo: Cary Bass-Deschenes/Flickr)
Barcelona has been chafing from massive tourism growth for years, and the city is defending its locals at one of its most popular attractions: tour groups of more than 15 people are being banned from La Boqueria market during peak hours.
The Local reported the ban enacted by City Hall, which will apply during the market’s peak hours, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Any groups larger than 15 will be escorted out by security guards.
Stall holders at La Boqueria had petitioned to have group sizes regulated, and locals have complained about having their shopping interrupted by tourist throngs who often spend more time taking photos than actually buying something.
“I think the new plan is a good idea. I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t been implemented before,” Barcelona resident and blogger Rob Dobson told The Local. “Of course tourists are part of the make-up and economy of this city and a huge part of La Boqueria on any day, but there’s a difference between a couple or a family browsing and a group of 10 or 15 people being taken round, often by a guide.
"A group of 15 is still a bit large in my opinion but I think everyone will benefit from the new regulations in the end.”
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(Photo: Ulf Liljankoski/Flickr)
Barcelona tourism has more than boomed – according to the City Council it has tripled over the last 20 years. The city has gone from attracting 1.7 million visitors in 1990 to 7.4 million visitors in 2012 – that’s in a city of 1.6 million residents.
The Telegraph quoted its local expert, Sally Davies, as saying the ban is probably more symbolic than anything.
“The vast majority of guide-led groups contain 10 or fewer people,” Davies said. “It could well be a City Council attempt to look as though it is addressing locals’ ongoing concerns about tourist saturation, but it is a start.
“There are other great markets in Barcelona, such as the Mercat Santa Caterina, but for locals the Boqueria is still the best place to find certain products – often, the only place.”