Frenchman Philippe Saman, who is 68 years old and married, was general director of the French Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona for more than 41 years. He is a founding member of association “Ahora Dónde – Le Refuge” which is dedicated to helping young people who have suffered LGTBI-phobia within the family.
He is also a big soccer fan, a member of FC Barcelona, and founder and driving force of the Olympique de Marseille fan club in Barcelona, which has more than 100 members.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
I came to Barcelona in May 1979 as part of my French military service. It lasted 18 months, but 43 years later I am still here.
What do you see as the city’s strengths?
Barcelona is a city on a human scale. It has a great international reputation, which attracts talent, and it is has very good communications.
It is a port like my hometown, Marseille, which means there is a good mix of people of different origins, and an openness to the outside world.
Barcelona is a city with great cultural potential. Its first class museums and the architecture of Gaudi and others has enormous appeal, while the city is also known for its gastronomy. With the sun and the excellent quality of life, it is a very attractive destination for many new groups, including digital nomads.
What needs to be improved in the city?
One lesson that Barcelona has yet to learn is how to deal with the overcrowding caused by tourism. The pandemic showed us just how important tourism is in the life of the city, but at the same we realized how damaging it had been.
I have the feeling that we have learned little during this period, and that we have not brought about the necessary changes. Now that tourism is recovering, we are once again seeing the same problems: the city now seems less secure and poorly maintained.
We must also continue to improve infrastructures. The port needs to be expanded and there needs to be progress on airport development, with more transcontinental connections, albeit with respect for the environment.
There has been a reduction in the number of polluting cars in the city, but no significant increase in electric recharging points. And there are few park and rides on the outskirts of the city. Public transport needs to be improved.
What challenges caused by the pandemic do you think the city needs to deal with?
For me, the biggest challenge will be to reduce the social inequalities that have grown during the crisis.
What are your expectations for Barcelona in the coming years?
I believe that the city must develop in a coherent manner, with major projects which citizens can contribute to.
These include sustainable development (including the important role played by businesses), and of course, mobility, which is of key importance I also believe that debate, analysis, and decision-making must be applied to the entire Greater Barcelona metropolitan área.
Barcelona has to commit to top flight sporting events with international media coverage. Events like the America Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Tour de France, Formula 1, MotoGP, would increase the prestige of the city and result in higher quality tourism.
Where do you feel most at home? What do you miss the most?
More than 40 years Is a long time. Family, friends, relationships, interests, my life is definitely in Barcelona, but one never forgets the city where one was born and spent the first 20 years of one’s life.
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