Barcelona / Bloomberg
The Majestic, a luxury hotel in downtown Barcelona, is bumping up room prices by two thirds as delegates including Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg troop into Spain’s second city for the annual Mobile World
“This is the biggest week of the year for hoteliers,” said Santiago Martin, communications manager for the Majestic Hotel Group. The hotel, which normally charges €300 a night for a standard room, will charge €500 as the annual gathering of the mobile industry draws almost 100,000 visitors to Barcelona, he said.
Barcelona’s tourism and conference trade is proving a bonanza for its hoteliers as economic growth lures business at the same time that the City Hall is trying to limit the number of visitors to Spain’s second city.
Mayor Ada Colau, who was elected last year on a platform with anti-austerity party Podemos, has frozen new hotel licenses for a year in a bid to limit the amount of tourists flooding to the city.
“Barcelona is an unstoppable beast at creating hotel room demand because of its charm, its climate and the number of conferences it hosts,” said Miguel Vazquez, a partner at Madrid- based real estate and hotel consultancy Irea, in a phone interview. “Current hotel owners are very happy with the moratorium and they are sitting on real treasure troves.”
In an interview with El Pais newspaper last year, Colau said that Barcelona had to act to stop new hotel openings to prevent the city from being swamped by tourists because the situation in its Old Town was already out of control. She said the city would have to act to limit the supply of tourist room “if we don’t want to be like Venice.”
The number of international tourists visiting Catalonia, the Spanish region whose main city is Barcelona, has almost doubled since 2001, climbing to 17.4 million last year, according to the National Statistics Institute.
Barcelona needs time to assess its hotel needs and is not against attracting international visitors, said Agusti Colom, a commerce and tourism manager for central Barcelona.
“This is about dealing with areas that are highly congested and over-crowded,” said Colom by phone. “In terms of infrastructure, it can’t be just about hotels, this city needs office space for example. It’s a way of diversifying.” He said the city might start processing new hotel licenses as soon as April.
Even so, the result of the moratorium has helped existing hotel owners who can raise prices because the supply of rooms can’t meet demand from visitors, said Ismael Clemente, chief executive officer of Spain’s largest real estate company Merlin Properties Socimi SA, which owns three hotels in Barcelona.
Hotels in the coastal city in north-eastern Spain famous for its Gaudi architecture, beaches and eponymous football club had an average occupancy rate of 76 percent last year, according to data compiled by hotel industry researcher STR Global.
That outstrips the average for Spain and Europe at around 70 percent. The average daily rate charged by hotels grew 7.2 percent to 128 euros per night, compared with the average of 113 euros per night for hotels in Europe and 94 euros per night for hotels in Madrid, according to STR Global.