In the absence of tourists, Spaniards reclaim their cities

In Barcelona, Laia and her daughter stroll peacefully in Park Guell.

In the absence of tourists, Spaniards reclaim their cities
A local takes a selfie at Barcelona's Park Guell. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

The lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic may not have been universally popular but they have had the effect of alleviating, at least temporarily, some of the ills associated with tourism, notably the overcrowding of city centres and a rapid rise in prices and rents.

Park Guell, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the great legacies of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi, is currently for the exclusive use of the residents of the area.

“All my childhood, I played in this park but I never came with my daughter because it was impossible to do anything, there were too many people,” says Laia Torra.

Today, the 39-year-old sports teacher is visiting the park with a friend and her children.

At their disposal lies one of the most coveted places in the park — a long undulating bench decorated with colourful mosaics, overlooking a wonderful panorama of the city, with the Mediterranean on the horizon.

The two women normally never go there as it is always swarmed by visitors looking for the best angles for the seemingly obligatory Barcelona selfie.

“It's wonderful, it's like going back 20 years,” says Torra as the kids gallivant on a scooter and bike.

“We know it's temporary but we have to take advantage of it.” The “Tourist, go home” signs which had flourished in recent years have lost their raison d'etre, at least for a while.

After protests in recent summers against the partying and incivility of some tourists, the former fishermen's quarter of Barceloneta has been transformed into a gigantic open-air gymnasium, where locals come to run, swim and surf during the authorised hours.

“Normally I don't go to these beaches,” admits a beaming Emma Prades, a 43-year-old psychologist.

“Now it's more tempting. And the water is cleaner.”

An almost empty Barceloneta beach. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

'A tourist monoculture'

Marti Cuso, a 30-year-old social worker, has long opposed the tourist invasion of the centre of Barcelona, where he lives, and the subsequent pressure on the local population, many of whom have had to leave the area.

“We have been warning for years that all this could be shattered,” he says.

While other districts are awakening after the confinement thanks to the reopening of small shops, the shutters remain down in the much visited Gothic quarter and on the emblematic Las Ramblas street.

“Today, unfortunately, we are seeing the consequences,” says Cuso.

“A tourist monoculture has created a desert.”

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Copenhagen Airport delays: Air traffic controllers borrowed to ease shortage

Air traffic control company Naviair will loan air traffic control staff from the smaller Roskilde Airport to solve persistent flight delays out of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Airport delays: Air traffic controllers borrowed to ease shortage

The loan of staff from Roskilde Airport will be in place throughout the peak summer season, Naviair said in a statement.

The decision has been made to prevent major flight delays affecting passengers at Copenhagen Airport.

Naviair said that the solution will give it enough cover for most of the summer flight traffic without lengthy delays or asking air traffic controllers to work overtime.

Capacity at Roskilde Airport will be reduced during the period.

“The plan is going to have some consequences. The reallocation of air traffic controllers means reduced capacity at Roskilde Airport, whose users we naturally apologise to,” Naviair director of traffic Thorsten Elkjær said in the press statement.

READ ALSO: Airline Norwegian threatens to ‘find alternative’ to Copenhagen Airport over delays

The shortage of air traffic controllers and related dispute between their trade union and Naviair, their employer, has resulted in delays for hundreds of thousands of passengers at Copenhagen Airport in recent weeks.

Naviair has asked its staff to take on extra shifts due to the shortage but has also said it has increased intake on training programmes to eventually increase the number of staff available. 

The air traffic controllers have said that the overtime is not at a manageable level, and that they have taken 1,500 additional shifts so far this year.

Figures from April show that some 45 percent of flights from Copenhagen Airport were delayed last month and the issue has continued into May.