What is Sustainable Tourism?
In the last 70 years, global tourism has grown from 25 million travellers annually to 1.32 billion in 2017, and an expected 1.8 billion by 2030.
The rise of the middle class and the introduction of mandatory paid holidays in most developed countries played a big part in this growth. However, the recent drastic drop in transportation costs and now the accessibility and centralization of booking accommodation without the need of an intermediating travel agency, through booking platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com are also factors that have greatly contributed to the boom of global tourism in recent years.
This considerable growth needs to be handled in a way so that it does not threaten either the global environment nor the local communities in the areas that bear the brunt of this tourism. This is where the concept of Sustainable Tourism comes into the picture: tourism should not harm the global and local environment, but should also have a positive impact on local economies and cultures, and not be to the benefit of only the tourist.
How this applies to Barcelona
Barcelona is no exception to this global trend. Since the Olympic Games of 1992 the city saw the influx of tourists grow from roughly 1,7 million tourists to almost 32 million in 2017. An increase of 1882.35% over 25 years.
And even though Barcelona was awarded the award "Biosphere World Class Destination", an award only given to 17 cities, it doesn´t mean that the rapid growth is a strain on the city. There are many concerns about the negative impact of receiving so many tourists.
The issue has many stakeholders who all need to take action and work together for a sustainable solution, from travel and transport companies to the local government to the various accommodation providers, be it hotels, apartments or hostels.
How it applies to the holiday rental industry
The most visible impact of the tourism in Barcelona is the densification of the main public places and attractions. But there are other effects that need to be monitored such as the increase in energy consumption, the effect on the environment, and the sustainability for the local population.
Barcelona receives two main kinds of tourism, Cultural and "Sol y Playa" tourism. Cultural tourists are made up of mostly families and groups of friends over 30 years old, with an interest in the architecture and everything the city has to offer in terms of museums and attractions.
The "Sol y Playa" category of people coming to Barcelona consists mainly of young people, both from Spain and abroad, and they are coming to enjoy the restaurants, beach, and nightlife.
How we can take action
Being part of the offer of Tourist apartments in the city of Barcelona, we are very aware of the role we play in how the tourism affects the city, a responsibility we take very seriously.
First and foremost, we are firm believers in the regulation of the industry, and therefore only deal with licensed apartments, just as we actively fight against the use of unlicensed apartments by any actor.
When it comes to the environment, we fight to lower the energy consumption in our apartments. We know that the hot Spanish summers encourage our guests to use their air-conditioning units, but we put measures in place to avoid excessive usage.
To do that, we use detectors, or timers, that will automatically turn the Air-Conditioning off when the apartments are empty, or when any outside doors or windows are open, to avoid wasting energy.
Low consumption light bulbs and eco-efficient appliances are other measures we use to reduce electricity consumption. We also have clear waste sorting instructions in all of the apartments, to make sure our guests know how this works in Barcelona.
When it comes to the impact on the everyday lives of the locals, we focus a lot on making sure our guests do not disturb their neighbours during their stay. We do this by installing noise meters in all of our apartments which alerts us 24/7 if guests in an apartment are being louder than allowed so that we can contact the guests and remind them to keep the noise down.
We also have a strict guest vetting process, and we don´t allow Stag/Hen do´s or bachelor parties, nor do we accept groups of friends under the age of 30 years old to stay, as we know from experience that these groups tend to be a bigger disturbance on their neighbours.
Last but not least, we also want to make sure we give back to the city. We, therefore, support a charity called Casal dels Infants by donating a part of every rental we host. Casal dels Infants is a charity that provides different initiatives for underprivileged children through various projects in Barcelona and other Spanish and Moroccan cities. If you want to read more about Casal dels Infants and see how you can support them yourself, visit this link: https://www.casaldelsinfants.org/
As part of the large holiday home rental industry in Barcelona, we believe that it is our duty to make sure that our activity has no negative impact on the environment and on the local population. Even if there is still room for improvement, innovation and technology have already helped us to drastically change the way we operate. This has allowed us to become one of the most conscious holiday rental management companies in Barcelona.