Separatists Win Catalan Election; Travel Outlook Unclear

Aerial view of Las Ramblas in Barcelona
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Separatist parties in the Catalonia region of Spain have won a majority in the regional Parliament, reigniting an independence crisis that hurt travel to the area this fall.

Reuters reports that, with over 99 percent of the vote’s from Thursday’s election counted, separatist parties had secured a slim majority.

According to the BBC, the region’s Citizens Party, which wants Catalonia to remain a semi-autonomous part of Spain, won the largest share of seats in the election; however, pro-independence parties are best placed to form a ruling coalition. In response to the election results ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who is living in exile in Belgium, called for talks outside of Spain with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy refused, saying he would negotiate with whoever became the new head of the Catalan government, but that they would have to take up their post in Catalonia.

Rajoy called for the elections as part of a series of measures in response to an October 1 independence referendum that erupted into violence. The central Spanish government, arguing that the October 1 vote was illegal, implemented a police crackdown that injured 844 people, setting off a series of protests and strikes.

As of this past October, the crisis was beginning to drag tourism to the region, particularly Barcelona, its largest and most important to tourism city. At the time AARP Travel reported that Spanish tourism association Exceltur saw tourism activity drop by 15 percent following the October 1 referendum. Similarly, ForwardKeys said that international flight bookings to the region fell 17 percent year over year in October.

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