Catalonia Parliament Votes Independence; Travel Continues to Fall

Anti-independence demonstrators waving Spanish flags march blocking main Diagonal avenue during a protest in Barcelona.
Photo by AP Photo/Francisco Seco via Newscred

The Parliament of Catalonia has voted to declare independence from Spain, escalating a crisis that has dampened travel to Barcelona, the region’s largest tourist destination.

The New York Times reports that lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution Friday to “create a Catalan republic as an independent state.” The move followed an earlier meeting of the Spanish Senate in which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged the central government to invoke a provision of the Spanish Constitution that would allow them to impose direct rule over the region of Catalonia, arguing that the actions of the separatists, including the independence vote in early October, were illegal and “contrary to the normal behavior in any democratic country like ours.”

Update: The Spanish government has voted to take direct control of Catalonia, according to the Times

According to the Washington Post, the vote was 70 – 10 in favor of independence; however, 55 deputies declined to vote, with some reportedly walking out in protest before the vote was conducted.

The political crisis, along with the unrest and violence surrounding the October independence referendum, have begun to slow tourism to Barcelona. According to statistics from the Spanish tourism association Exceltur cited by AARP Travel, Catalonia has seen tourism activity drop by 15 percent since the October referendum. Hotel reservations are down by 20 percent through the end of the year.

The Exceltur numbers track with an earlier report by ForwardKeys that international flight bookings to the region have fallen 17 percent year over year since the October 1 independence referendum.

“Domestic political unrest almost always damages inbound tourism and that is what we are seeing,” ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager said at the time.

In the week following the violence over the independence referendum, in which a police crackdown on the voting injured 844 people, two port calls in Barcelona from German cruise brand Mein Schiff were rerouted to Valencia. Major airlines, including American Airlines and Air Canada, also issued change waivers in the immediate aftermath of the violence, allowing their customers to rebook without extra fees.

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