Taking new steps to combat overtourism and reduce noise pollution, Barcelona has capped the size of tour groups and banned the use of megaphones on tours.
The new rules come as travel demand and tourism numbers continue to surge after two-plus years of Covid restrictions.
Tour groups are no longer allowed to exceed 30 people on tours conducted in Barcelona's city center, known as District One, where tourist density levels are the highest. Neighborhoods in that district include the Gothic Quarter; Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera; and La Barceloneta.
Tour groups in smaller areas will be limited to 15 people.
One-way directions will be enforced on 24 streets and squares, such as Paradise Street and Placa Sant Felip Neri square, in an effort to keep foot traffic flowing. Breaks that tour guides take to explain a location or attraction's history will need to be kept brief on crowded days.
The use of megaphones on guided tours in the city are no longer allowed. Instead, the city wants tour guides to use radio-based equipment or whisper devices to communicate with guests on tours in public spaces and while on public transportation.
The Travel Corporation — the parent of several tour brands, including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Contiki — said its tour operators in Barcelona will adapt to the new rules as they have done so in the past.
"TTC Tour Brands stay up to date and work closely with local guides and suppliers in all regions to adjust with local restrictions as they are constantly changing," said Melissa da Silva, president of TTC Tour Brands. "The brands already use whisper devices to ensure noise levels do not disrupt those not on tour. Travel directors have been working diligently to ensure the group size limitations are followed while not affecting the day-to-day activities on trip."
Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain after Madrid and has struggled with overtourism issues for years, with its most recent focus on banning short-term rentals. In 2021, Barcelona became the first major European city to ban short-term room rentals of less than 30 days.
Elizabeth Becker, author of "Overbooked: the Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism," said Barcelona mayor Ada Colau "won the election on promises to tame tourism, and she delivers." Colau was first elected in 2015 and is in her second term as mayor.
"The ordinance to limit the size of tour groups is with recent restrictions on short-term rentals," Becker said, adding that Colau's tourism plans are "expansive" and include less car and tour-bus traffic in the city.
Source: Travel Weekly