Turisme i cultura després de la pandèmia
The debate forum “City, tourism and culture: a joint opportunity” – organised by the Department of Tourism and Creative Industries in conjunction with the Sixth Deputy Mayor’s Office for Culture, Education, Science and Community under the aegis of Barcelona City Council – has discussed proposals to improve the interaction between tourism and culture in the city. The forum, which has brought together more than one hundred experts, has been organised in focus groups around ten sessions, led by ten managers and that are summarised herein.
The COVID-19 crisis has borne a devastating impact on tourism, since visitor spending represented 15% of Barcelona’s income. The pandemic forces us to rethink a model that was already showing signs of exhaustion prior to the crisis. And here culture has a great deal to say, understood in a double sense: “That which shapes the Barcelona way of understanding the world and of managing the city itself, and that which creates, produces and disseminates content that seek to and may interest citizens from all over the world “, says the driving force behind the forum, Xavier Marcé, Councillor for Tourism and Creative Industries.
Visitors who stay in Barcelona and, above all, the 40% who come again, are receptive to the culture that is proposed. There are almost nine million tourists per year (2019 figures), a figure that shows that Barcelona is not purely a holiday destination.
The time has come to integrate the potential of visitors when putting together cultural strategies in Barcelona. It is clear that the solution is not to produce cultural content designed exclusively for visitors, nor to segregate local culture in circuits that are not of interest to visitors. Citizens and visitors must be prevented from having dissociated cultural experiences.
Barcelona must commit to the quality and not to the quantity of tourism, and must adapt the flow of visitors to the requirements of the 2030 Agenda. If we wish to foster committed, high-calibre, sustainable, resilient and, ultimately, more aspirational tourism, bridges must be built between tourism and culture.
Director-General of the Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation.
There is quantity-based tourism that provides little added value, while quality-based tourism, which exists and is very significant, has not been valued enough.
Finding a new tourism model would be advisable because the city of the future will inevitably be touristic. A new city model is needed following the New Lab concept that drives it into the future through creativity and culture.
If, working steadfastly and rigorously, gastronomy and its first-rate creators have been placed in the imaginary that accompanies the promotion of Barcelona as a destination, why not do so in an organised but intense fashion with cultural production and heritage culture?
I am very concerned about recovering Barcelona’s visitors. It will not be easy; and we do indeed have an opportunity to avoid mistakes, but I think that first of all we must develop a positive, purposeful and unifying discourse.
The positive impact exerted by tourism from a social point of view must be better conveyed to citizens, since the income it generates contributes to educational and cultural programmes. And I want Barcelona to recover its ambition with a capital A to be a quality destination with a deep social commitment. No one should be left behind.
President of Advanced Leisure Services
The focus of tourist activity, traditionally divided into holiday tourism and business tourism, must be broadened to initiate discussion on visitor spending, which includes all the business generated by those who visit us, for whatever reason. Marketing and the promotion of destination content are key to enhancing the factors that set us apart, to work in tandem to comply with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development against climate change and, at the same time, to maximise the return on business for the entire destination. We wish to seek out, in any geographic market, those people who especially value what we are and what we offer and who, therefore, are willing to pay more because what they are offered has a differential value.
It is essential to be clear about the imaginary, the content that we wish to promote and communicate, as well as our specific target segments to reach them using all the tools available through big data and artificial intelligence. We must identify companies and activities, many of which are private, that can be part of this imaginary and we must network and work together.
A short-term vision is needed to survive, and a long-term one, to maintain the competitiveness and profitability of activity, with a view to turning the city into an attractive, responsible, sustainable, resilient and digital urban destination.
Executive director of the Russian House Foundation in Barcelona
It is important we go beyond a reductionist vision to address the tourism issue from a more cross-cutting nature and without thinking that sun and beach tourism is incompatible with cultural tourism. We must come up with new attractions, which are also adapted to the new generations.
In the dynamics of continuous tourism growth, quantity is valued, but we must move to measuring quality, when what is quantified is what visitors spend.
A differentiation must be made between “consuming culture”, which is what visitors do when they come to Barcelona and that encompasses a lifestyle, and “consuming cultural amenities”. There are cultural centres such as the Russian House in Barcelona that, thanks to the activities that it programmes regularly, allow many citizens to improve their knowledge of the countries that these centres represent. Their efforts yield a return that benefits the city’s cultural wealth.
Barcelona does not have first-rate cultural events, such as major exhibitions like those advertised in Paris or London, capable of attracting cultural tourism, and this is a quality tourism niche that should be exploited.
“A differentiation must be made between ‘consuming culture’, which is what visitors do when they come to Barcelona and that encompasses a lifestyle, and ‘consuming cultural amenities’”. Anna Silyunas. Russian House Foundation Barcelona.
Director of Primavera Sound
In Barcelona, cultural initiatives with a global spirit, apparently in the minority, are growing, but with solid, varied and daring programmes, with values that are highly integrated in the city and that attract people from other places, in contrast to other cities, which base their cultural programming on big museums or events that resort to big names as a tourist attraction.
Festivals such as Sónar, IN-EDIT, Manga Barcelona and Primavera Sound, among many others, would be unthinkable in other Spanish cities and conceivable in not many European cities. The programmes of all of these festivals are based on values that are intrinsic to “Barcelona”, and this boosts local pride and citizens’ appreciation of their city in a reciprocal action.
Visitors want to see original cities with a soul, a soul that is perceived in its way of doing things and understanding its social environment. This is how visitors partake in its contemporaneity. Only by taking local users into account is this something that can be achieved; tourists will come later.
We must be able to convey authenticity as a result of developing autochthonous values and not petrified settings, of creating a dynamic city from a cultural point of view and not an empty shell. We must foster creativity and the production of new works that will be the heritage of the future without forgetting that the true protagonists of culture are citizens as creators, event organisers, curators and transmitters of values, producers and sellers.
Jordi Sellas i Ferrés
Barcelona is an overrated city. It is among the top ten favourite cities in the world to visit and live in on countless lists of global hits. However, every year the feeling of being part of an interchangeable product is heightened; a ranking that can result in it ceasing to be a fashionable destination and becoming a new and pleasant medium-sized city in any other part of the world.
Barcelona lives off the revenue of three moments in the past: the medieval city, the late 19th-century city and the Olympic city. These are historic milestones of such a high social, economic and cultural significance that today we continue to feel their effects, since they laid the foundations for what today are its greatest cultural attractions for international visitors. However, without a new and authentic definition of who we are and how we want to be perceived, reality can end up giving us back a pile of clichés, platitudes and rehashes of past ideas.
The political dynamics of the last decade have contributed to making some of the greatest cultural and creative potentialities of the city and the country invisible. It would be interesting to retrieve that old and powerful idea that defines Catalonia as a network of medium-sized cities whose capital is Barcelona. A network is not a vertical hierarchical system, but a connection of independent nodes that, each with its own potentialities, can be more solid if they work together. The cultural capital of the city of Barcelona is projected, today, on the rest of Catalonia out of inertia and not out of conviction or planning.
José Antonio Donaire Benito
Professor at the University of Gerona
You cannot understand the city of the late 20th and early 21st centuries without taking tourism into account. Tourist activity has created “memory scars”, fragments, buildings, routines and activities that can only be understood from the tourism point of view. In fact, tourism is part of Barcelona’s identity just like the former industries of the Poblenou neighbourhood, the Baroque churches or the remains of medieval mansions. It is another picture in the manuscript that is the city.
Tourist activity has created heritage elements that must be preserved. They will be the buildings and spaces that the tourists of the future will visit. They are memory spaces that we must begin to inventory, catalogue and, in some cases, preserve. We must defend the city’s tourism heritage.
Tourism alters access to certain urban areas, making them more attractive to one profile of residents and inaccessible to others. Therefore, tourism changes the way the city and public spaces are used.
Contemporary cities are not touristic or non-touristic. They are attractive or invisible. Tourism is another cog in a process of global cities, which attract residents, students, illegal immigrants, liberal professionals, conference-goers, patients and, naturally, tourists. Tourism is another derivative of globalisation processes (people, capital and ideas) in major international cities, unexpectedly disrupted by COVID-19.
Executive director of the OFFF Barcelona festival
We are witnessing a despair hitherto unknown: that of citizens who see how their surroundings have suddenly been emptied of tourists and do not recognise this new “postcard” of their city. The people of Barcelona have to go back 30 years to feel this sensation of a city that is not taken over by tourists.
It is a time of shock, but also an opportunity for culture to boost local audiences and apply real innovation processes. And also to rediscover and adapt cities at a slower pace and in a more identity-oriented manner. It is time for tourism to seek its ally in culture, and not the other way around as has happened up to now.
Local citizens can also recover the city’s touristic essence. We must generate added value with culture and move to a model that sets us apart from the major hubs that attract tourism.
Today understanding the capacity of connectivity technology to have a presence in a global world is essential. Internationalising the culture produced in Barcelona, as an internal vision of the city, is an essential focal point to explain to visitors what they will find when they decide to visit the city again. In short, promoting local audiences is the prelude to international success.
Member of the Supervisory Board of Barcelona Global
Barcelona is one of the most visited and sought-after urban destinations in the world, with the development of a highly competitive tourism sector that has contributed to improving the city’s connectivity, facilitating the development of other key sectors for the future. It has improved tax revenues and has contributed to earning its reputation in the world.
To achieve a sustainable model for visitor spending, Barcelona, more than ever, needs tourism policy to be integrated into the “city policy” and for it not just to be a sectoral policy. Destination management must be consistent across all dimensions: urban planning, culture, mobility, security, cleanliness, the environment, attractiveness management, investment attraction, promotion organisation and taxation. And the involvement of all administrations, together with the commitment of the private sector, is paramount.
Fiscal and investment support policy is still very much underdeveloped, despite its potential. Greater legal stability of municipal regulations is needed as well as a tax framework for when tourism recovers, with a dual objective: to adjust the particulars of ICO [Spain’s Official Credit Institute] funding for the operators most affected by the pandemic to the duration of the pandemic, which is longer than expected, and establish a taxation that encourages cultural activities and services in line with the standards of a highly competitive destination. Renewed cultural content must be offered during the less crowded months, such as the Barcelona Obertura Spring Festival, which combines international reach with quality cultural content for all audiences.
“Fiscal tools must be used to raise Barcelona’s cultural profile.” Michael Goldenberg. Barcelona Global.
Director of the MAPFRE Barcelona Foundation
The first time we found the word tourist in a dictionary was in 1800, and it was linked to the search for a unique experience. At that time it was a solitary thing, but soon after, in 1845, the first group tour emerged, and shortly after the bourgeoisie laid the foundations for the world of work and industry to develop tourism on a large scale. Now we have the opportunity to return to a more specialised, less numerous, more demanding, more diversified tourism. This approach implies a lower influx of people, and that also entails lower economic gains.
The current situation allows visitors to be looked after and for them to have a more individual relationship with the work of art. And that is what, in contact with live art, head to head, is transformative. But you have to leave room for this meeting to take place. The person, being there, experiences it, perceives it, recognises it. But to achieve this, certain conditions must be met and a certain silence and a certain solitude are necessary.
At the origin of tourism, the experience happened in an attainable, unique and memorable way. The return to this search, to that experience, also calls for prior educational work that reverses current tourism and, on the way, the society in which we live.
Director of ICC Consultors
The greatest challenge surrounding the joint reflection on tourism and culture is to transform the city’s imaginary. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, there was a great contrast between the cultural experience of visitors and that of local audiences. It seemed that one content was aimed solely at tourism and that the other had no presence whatsoever. This bears several negative effects. Firstly, the disconnection between Barcelona’s citizens and some of their cultural reference points makes the cultural experience less rich and varied. But it is also a problem for amenities – especially museums –, which see the number of visitors drastically plummet when Barcelona stops receiving tourists. The pandemic can help these amenities to recover local audiences.
From a cultural point of view, there are many “Barcelonas” that do not reach the visitor. With a vocation committed to diversity, strategies should be defined to reach this visitor. Barcelona and the live arts. Barcelona and reading. Barcelona and cultural rights. Barcelona and creation. Barcelona and music. Barcelona and industrial heritage. Barcelona and the public space. Barcelona and creative industries. Without leaving the fields recognised as cultural and without claiming to be exhaustive, this is a possible list to build an imaginary that complements the current one. And, to this end, you must have the involvement of bookstores, libraries, theatres, auditoriums and creation factories. This strategy will only be useful to redefine the tourism model to the extent that it is consistent and robust from the perspective of cultural policy.
From the issue
N118 - Apr 21 Index
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