Why Barcelona's Luxury Hotels Are Deliberately Becoming Less Luxurious

White-gloves are out; sophisticated serenity is in.

Why Barcelona's Luxury Hotels Are Deliberately Becoming Less Luxurious

From Old World arches to Nue Age graffiti, Barcelona is a tourist’s Vermouth-stained dream. But for those with money to burn, the city is no longer the playpen of excess it once was.

How so? Well, even as Gaudi snubbed physics and Idelfons Cerdà i Sunyer organised the city into an iconic grid, neither could have predicted the impact Airbnb would have on Barcelona – centuries after their time.

It’s now 2019, and Barcelona is going through a “frill-aissance”. In other words: luxury hotels like Sir Victor’s keep opening, marking a swing back towards traditional accommodation, and away from Airbnb and Tripping.com.

Need further evidence? Last year the renowned international brand Edition opened a new property in Barcelona, as did Soho House. In addition, Nobu Hotel (another purveyor of understated luxury) is opening its third Spanish property in Barcelona this September.


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While you might think this shift away from Airbnb is due to some kind of separatist disdain for globalism, it’s actually more to do with Barcelona’s frustration with the 20 million yearly visitors it receives, many of whom live louder, more drink-infused lifestyles than locals.

And that’s before we get into suitcases that take up the sidewalk.

Anyhow, resident backlash to overtourism has led to legislation being passed against the digital hotel-wreckers, with Barcelona driving Spain to be one of the first countries to crack down on the unregulated accommodation market (a move many other nations have since emulated), opening up space once again for boutique hotels.


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But the expectations tourists have developed from Airbnb – both during its heyday in Barcelona and from their ongoing experiences abroad – has changed how Catalan hotels must operate.

As Skift reported on Tuesday, to be competitive in today’s market – which is full of customers who now want to live like locals – luxury hotels are changing their approach from “white glove” to “sophisticated serenity.”

According to Skift, few stays better represent this than Sir Victor hotel, which “opened this June off the famed Passeig de Gràcia… [and] celebrates what Barcelona is and what its visitors hope it to be.”

Named after the Catalan writer Victor Catalá, aka Caterina Albert i Paradís, who wrote under a male pen name and became a symbol of gender equality, Sir Victor embodies the concept of designing a hotel in homage to both past and future.

Another concept imported to Barcelona’s luxury hotels from Airbnb is local living. Or, in the case of Sir Victor – if you can’t live with them, bring them to you…

“One of the most important things in this sphere is to really activate the public areas – all the space outside of the room, Liran Wizman, owner of the Sir Hotel Group recently told Skift. “A really big success for a Sir Hotel would be if 50 percent of the space is open to the public.”

The aim? To attract today’s high-end authenticity seeking consumers who Skift says are “more about mindset… than… bottom line.”


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In much the same way, Laurence Dubey, the general manager of the upcoming Nobu Hotel Barcelona, told Skift, “Our guests want luxury, but in a discreet, laid-back, and unpretentious way.”

“They are fun, adventurous travellers who seek discovery and want to unearth the secrets of a destination, exploring up-and-coming neighborhoods and hidden backstreets.”

The takeaway? Although high-end Airbnb’s have previously provided very different experiences to luxury hotels like Sir Victor or Nobu, as the definition of opulence becomes less (discernably) materialistic, they may not remain so disparate.

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