Over the past twenty years, Barcelona has undergone an extraordinary evolution as a tourist destination. Boosted by the Olympic Games of 1992 (an authentic point of inflection – before and after) Barcelona has gone from being practically irrelevant on the international tourist circuit, to becoming one of the most highly desired world destinations.
With a population of 1.7 million inhabitants, Barcelona annually receives more than 12 million tourists – when in 1992, including the Olympic Games, there were only 1.9 million visitors. This evolution has been accompanied by a progressive updating of the infrastructures and has turned tourism into an important industry for the city (approximately 10% of the GDP) but at the same time has generated some negative effects that have highlighted the fragile nature of urban destinations.
After the fact that 2007 was the best year in history in terms of tourist figures, in 2008, the City Council of Barcelona set in motion the Strategic Plan for Tourism of the City of Barcelona with two main aims: to foster the improvement of the touristic activity and to improve the way it fits in with the citizenship that didn’t feel closely identified with it.
With a very transversal and wide participation (about a thousand people participated), the Plan carried out a diagnosis which laid down the main challenges: to spread out the touristic activity around the territory, to rethink its governance, to generate complicity with the society, to play the role of leadership, and to boost the greater competitiveness of the destination and related sectors.
The principles of the Strategic Plan placed the emphasis on a coherent touristic model for the city and with tourism policies based on economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability so as to ensure a balance between visitors and residents. The resulting 2010-2015 action plan, with fifteen programmes and more than one hundred and fifty actions, is the “roadmap” for the city of Barcelona to tackle its consolidation as a mature tourist destination. The Biosphere certification as a destination for responsible tourism and the incorporation Turisme de Barcelona in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council fit fully within this framework
Joan Torrella, Director of Territorial Economic Promotion and Tourism