Fermí Villar of Amics de la Rambla (Friends of the Rambla), leading the way for responsible tourism

30th January 2024

Success Stories

Fermí Villar of Amics de la Rambla (Friends of the Rambla), leading the way for responsible tourism

Fermí Villar has been the chair of the Amics de la Rambla association since 2016. This coming March, he will finally leave the post, having launched numerous initiatives to make this street more sustainable and friendly for both locals and visitors.

His connection to the Rambla goes all the way back to 1969, when his parents opened a leather jacket workshop and store on this boulevard. Their children took over, but the industry declined and the next generation has since worked managing the family properties.

After eight years, Fermí witnessed the long-awaited launch of the “Pla Endreça” in October 2022, an ambitious initiative aimed at enhancing the maintenance of public spaces and fostering greater shared responsibility and harmony within the community, with an emphasis on aspects such as waste management improvement and the efficient use of resources.

The plan not only affects this area, but also has the potential to have an impact on the whole city. “La Rambla is Barcelona’s quintessential human laboratory par excellence”, explains Fermí. “Because it gets so many visitors, what happens here reflects what will eventually happen in the rest of the city”.

Sustainable measures

That’s why the association is playing a leading role in adopting strategies to improve the environment around this thoroughfare, which is what we now refer to as sustainable tourism. “The Amics de la Rambla called for the first moratorium on tourist apartment licences back in 2014,” he recalls. “We were criticised, but now it serves as a model for the whole city”.

As Fermí explains, the excess of certain types of establishments is detrimental to the social fabric of the neighbourhood. Without this regulation, streets were filled with businesses that did not serve the needs of local residents.

“We limited the opening of new bars, restaurants and hotels”, he explains. And he points out that their goal is for visitors from all over to feel comfortable here: “Whether they are from Los Angeles or Granollers, we want them to feel at ease”.

And this respect for locals can be seen in many different areas: limiting noise pollution, improving waste management, the social responsibility of many businesses...

In fact, the sensitivity with which the members of Amics de la Rambla run their businesses has made obtaining Biosphere certification a natural step.

“There are businesses that have been sustainable for many years”, he explains. “And when they talked with us about Biosphere, it was immediately clear to us that this was the way forward”. This commitment to sustainability is ingrained in their DNA, and has meant that the association has been open to all kinds of proposals that could improve the street.

But not all of them always come to fruition. One example is an initiative by a group of university students in the early 2010s, who wanted to install a pavement that would generate energy as people walked along it.

“We discovered that the Rambla had 120 million passers-by per year, but the project didn’t end up happening”, he says. “We could have generated a lot of energy”.

An example of how Amics de la Rambla, led by Fermí Villar, have been open to all kinds of proposals that allow them to improve their surroundings. Always with the same principle in mind: “quality tourists aren’t the ones who spend the most, but the ones who are most respectful”.

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