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Tourists warned as European Easter holiday hotspot forced to shut swimming pools

Simon Calder’s Travel

Tourists arriving at a holiday hotspot this Easter holiday will be met with large signs in English that read: “Drought alert. During your stay, save water” as beach showers are shut and swimming pools left unfilled.

As the impact of climate change intensifies across southern Europe, Spain’s Mediterranean region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, is enduring its worst drought on record.

The signs have appeared at city’s airport and at its iconic Sagrada Familia basilica.

Reservoir levels are only around 15% of their capacity, prompting curbs on water use by residents, visitors, agriculture and industry. Beach showers are shut and swimming pools cannot be filled with tap water, among other restrictions.

Catalan officials have appealed for tourists to act responsibly, but are also adamant the drought should not put them off coming to the Spanish city and region most-visited by foreigners, where tourism accounts for 14.5% of the local economy.

A member of a gardening team waters a tree with groundwater to keep it alive at Plaza Catalunya square in Barcelona


“The message from Catalonia’s tourism agency and business department to campsites and hotels is one of calm: (People) can enjoy their holidays here as usual,” said David Mascort, the regional government’s environmental chief.

Barcelona’s hotel association warned in February the city could not afford to project an image abroad of hotels with empty pools. Hotels’ lobbying prompted the authorities to relax a total ban on filling pools, allowing desalinated water to be used instead.

“Tourists are not scared by the drought and are not aware of it (before arriving),” said the hotel association director Manel Casals. “If we are not careful the image of Barcelona will be impacted (by the drought restrictions) but we are not aware of any negative impact so far. Tourists are still coming.”

Tourists visiting Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia confirmed they had known nothing of the water restrictions before seeing the billboards.

“Of course, tourists can expend less water if they are aware of the situation,” Finnish traveller Johan Saltin said.

People walk past a ‘drought episode’ placard at Passeig Lluis Companys promenade in Barcelona, Spain, March 19


Barcelona’s hotels have halved their water use since 2016, according to a…

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