Photo Essay

Unwanted Tourism

Gaudi-landia Ginger bread Pigeons

As of October 25, 2013 Barcelona will begin charging admission to Gaudi´s landmark Parc Güell as tourist numbers keep rising. Some feel this is due to the so-called ¨Unwanted Tourism¨ filtering through it´s gates.

Access to the attraction will be limited to approximately 800 people per hour, in an attempt to protect this Unesco World Heritage site. It has now been open for well over 100 years, during which time it has also suffered at the hands of visitors (and of course bottoms of seated tourists) . The wear and tear of those many millions passing through the park naturally is an on-going concern along with attacks of vandalism in the past.

Or, is it the 8 euro fee for the residents and citizens of Barcelona who feel it´s their right to have access to their own legacy whenever, however and at anytime of the day or night or year that they desire to visit this proud landmark of theirs. This is now causing a certain amount of animosity towards the tourism amongst citizens from the neighbourhood and the city in general. What is actually is at the heart of their concerns?

The argument goes something like this : that the area affected by the new regulation is called 'monumental', this includes the Plaça de la Natura, (Dragon's Steps) Escalinata del Dragón and the (Hypostyle Hall) Sala Hipòstila that is only about 7.9% of the entire park´s area. The rest of the park will remain open to the public as usual with no fee. Also, If you are an official resident of Barcelona, you may still get in for free, but have to request a special culture card and are finger-printed to avoid fraudulent lending of one´s culture card to others from outside.

Xavier Fernandez, a tourism consultant, says that he is in favour of the move, saying that it will bring in the necessary revenue for maintenance of the area most greatly affected known as the 'monumental' area of the park, and at the same time it will create jobs for more than 50 people. However, others in the community feel strongly against the idea. They consider this to be a municipal and therefore public facility and not a museum or a cathedral. Therefore, it should remain a free space for all visitors to enjoy while in Barcelona, where no one should pay an entrance fee.

Personally, I am of mixed feelings on this issue as I do think this beauty should be protected from the damage that those kinds of numbers mean whilst passing through these grounds. At present the numbers are that 9 million visitors anually pass thru the park during which peak times sometimes reach 1200 people every quarter hour. They ascend on the park every 15 minutes with an average of some 3000 visitors entering per hour. Here´s the issue at hand controlling this onslaught. The Ajuntament (City Hall) claims the numbers of neighbourhood locals are only at 2,4 % of the park´s visiting population, while stating that 86,2 % are foriegn visitors, with the remaining made up of 4,3 % Catalan´s and 7,1 % coming in from the rest of Spain per year.

Some feel that what was once a respite from the other many touristic attractions of Barcelona as a free space to contemplate in, will now only just become another museum used to fund the depleted coffers at city hall. These other-worldly flourishes of architectonic sculptural elements of Barcelona's famous Parc Guell, once allowed proud locals to show off their heritage to visiting friends and family, will now have to pay for that privilege to admire what was once free to all visitors.

As for the schedule, the 'monumental' area will be open 8:30am-6pm in winter, and 8am-9.30pm in summer. The rest of the park will operate regular hours from 5am to midnight.

Well, you do the math. I think and the real reasons have already become quite evident for this new policy to charge an admission to the Park Güell...(Approx. 60,000 Euros they will be earning per day during LOW season. Imagine the summer...)

In case you live here like I do, here below is the website to ask for an appointment with City to give you that honourable right of free entry to the monumental area. However, you have to make an appointment for your arrival at the park. (No romantic spontaneous inspiration allowed).

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