Barceló Raval Hotel: has the Raval exceeded its tourism carrying capacity?
The 5-star Barceló Raval Hotel located on the Rambla del
Raval, opens on September 24 2008 with a key role in transforming the once
infamous Barrio Chino (Chinese
District) of south El Raval. The hotel is the flagship of a development which
includes the Catalan National Film Library, private and public housing, the
headquarters of the Transport Workers Union and quality shops.
Barceló Raval Hotel viewed from the Rambla del Raval
The Barceló Group have invested 35 million euros in the hotel
project, taking a considerable risk. They hope to attract business executives as
well as tourists, taking advantage of the Raval's central location.
However, there are reservations about its success. The
potential conflicts created by a 5-star hotel and high-level design in an area
of residents with few economic resources are strong. South Raval has the highest
concentration of slum conditions and poverty in the city. The toughest
challenges come from speculative pressures, that often take the form of landlord
intimidation against long-established low-rent tenants, and social integration,
which requires fighting the marginality that still lingers in the area.
Interestingly, this very marginality that the Barceló Raval Hotel is planned to
transform, is a substantial part of the tourist attractiveness of the area.
Barcelona Inner-city slums
The highest concentration of slum conditions in Barcelona is
found in the neighbourhood known as the Raval, and most specifically Southern
This area was traditionally known as the Barrio Chino, or
'Chinatown', and, partly because of its proximity to the port, has been
characterized by marginal activities and the highest levels of poverty in the
city. It has also traditionally served as the gateway for new immigrants to the
city, providing cheap lodging in very poor conditions, in the form of boarding
houses, dormitories and subdivided apartments. The buildings in this area vary
in age – some are several centuries old – and the existence of slum lodgings
in the area can be traced back at least to the mid 19th century.
CHALLENGE OF SLUMS
GLOBAL REPORT ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS 2003
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Local businesses are confident about the therapeutic value of
the development. It is hoped that the hotel will act as a lever to attract more
private investment. Economic spread effects would radiate outwards, removing the
negative image of the neighbourhood.
Many neighbours, however, feel that the city is too
visitor-oriented to the detriment of residents. Three more luxury hotels in the
Raval are already in the planning stage and there are increasing complaints
about the lack of housing and social facilities and the excess of tourist
facilities. This has led to common resentment of the large number of tourists in
A council official, Rita Gonzalez acknowledges the imbalances
that so many luxury hotels in a district lacking in housing and social amenities
can create. This has led to an overall rethinking of the area, with a
neighbourhood project now planned for Joaquin Costa street, in the north of the
Raval. Although not wishing to talk about moratoriums, Gonzalez believes that
"we need a study on the tourism carrying capacity that the Raval can
withstand" and indicated that in south Raval there will be more housing
because hotels "undermine neighbourhood activity."
Raval Hotel , Barcelona
The most defining element of the Barceló
Raval Hotel is its elliptical shape. "It was not an easy building",
underlines the architect Jose Maria Guillen White, deputy director of the
Barceló development group. The solution has been to raise a central core of
concrete, as a backbone, and then some side pillars, so that the rest of the
area remains clear.
The hotel has a height of 37 metres, 186 rooms and a conference hall. The
roof terrace offers one of the most spectacular views of the city.
"The hotel is strategically situated in the
heart of the city, in El Raval, the most fashionable area in the centre of
"This new, avant-garde hotel complements its fashionable surroundings of
the Rambla del Raval, in Barcelona’s cultural heart.
The Raval has recently undergone a transformation to make it one of the city’s
trendiest districts, with highlights including the MACBA contemporary art
gallery. Take in 360-degree views of the surrounding area from the hotel’s