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Barcelona's Strategy and Action

March 6, 2019
Harold Goodwin
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Barcelona’s strategy is based on two explicit and fundamental understandings, understandings which are not widely shared in other destinations. More

  1. Destinations have two dimensions. Destinations are built through image and narratives, they are virtual as well as territorial. The hopes and expectations of visitors are formed through images and narratives. The visits, activities and interactions with the place and people (residents and visitors) are experienced in particular places. Communication, promotion and management strategies need to be developed and managed in an integrated way.
  2. Successful destinations must be both competitive and sustainable, they have to feasible in time and space.
    “To ensure a destination’s success, maintain its uniqueness, add value to the whole value chain, guarantee and promote new experiences, and turn tourism into an innovative activity with added value, the commitments to sustainability and responsibility signed by the city need to be ratified and, most important of all, conveyed through bold, specific proposals for action.”

Barcelona is a city which takes sustainable tourism seriously.
“Sustainability is no longer an option or brand attribute but rather an absolute commitment. The quality of tourist experiences depends on guaranteeing the well-being of the people who live in the city, ensuring a balance between the tourist city and the many other ways of experiencing it.”The Strategic Plan is based on five criteria:

“SUSTAINABILITY. The policies, programmes, economic activities and relationships between players that ensure the future well-being of destinations, without compromising the basic resources of the area or resident and visiting populations: environment, housing, public spaces, etc.

RESPONSIBILITY. The ethical individual and collective action framework that is committed to minimising the environmental and social impact while ensuring that economic activities do not occur at the expense of resident and visiting populations' rights.

REDISTRIBUTION. The public and private mechanisms that ensure a fair distribution of the wealth generated by economic activities, through revenue from work, taxation and the area's economic, social and business relations.

COHESION. Strengthening tourist activity links to the destination's players and population, as a means of implementing collective projects that look after the city, in all its complexity, as a common space and take into account the plurality of its voices and needs.

INNOVATION. The impetus behind new forms of economic and social management and organisation that create shared value and help to multiply and strengthen links between economic, social and cultural players for their mutual benefit.

Action Programmes:

  1. Governance: The municipal government recognises that there needs to be “public leadership of tourism management through coordination and participation with other players” in order to “ensure the city’s general interest.” This requires communication with a “plurality of voices” and using open participatory processes
  2. Knowledge: Barcelona recognises that data and shared knowledge is essential to managing tourism and to sharing it so as to inform a wide participatory debate. They have committed to “generating, sharing, spreading and transferring knowledge of tourist activity in destination Barcelona, to support the decision-making process, examine strategic issues and enrich public debate.
  3. Destination Barcelona: The objective is to build a triple bottom line sustainable destination which goes beyond the City limits and to develop a destination which “is dynamic, welcoming, open, innovative and desirable, which guarantees the quality of life of its citizens and a balanced territorial development, where the real city and its identity are the main attractions for visitors.”
    a. Marketing has to be turned into a management tool.
    b. Stop promoting neighbourhoods, rather highlight events, and “distinct itineraries and non-residential spaces as recipients of temporary activity.
    c. Expand and diversify the promotion of tourist attractions and products which meet sustainability criteria, ensure a social return and contribute to the local regeneration.
    d. Marketing the extended destination including the Province of Barcelona and its coast
  4. Mobility: Barcelona is addressing internal and external mobility to manage tourism flows. “Reasons for stays, seasonal variations, temporary visits, means of transport, the state of transport network infrastructures and the most popular itineraries are among the parameters that determine tourist uses of mobility in the city.
  5. Accommodation: Barcelona is aligning the various regulatory instruments which they have available to them. They are using planning regulations to control building and working with the internet intermediaries to encourage them to take responsibility and to comply with regulations to promote and “supply legal, quality accommodation.” Illegal tourist accommodation is now addressed by teams of inspectors working closely with the tax authorities. Residents and tourists alike can check online whether or not an accommodation is licensed and report it online or by phone. In May 2018 Barcelona secured access to all data from Airbnb adverts.145 Between July 2016 and July 2018, 2,355 tourism flats have been closed and a further 1,800 are in the process of being closed. A team of over 100 spotters and inspectors are continuing to check that flats which have been closed down don’t re-offend, to detect new cases and go after organised networks operating more than one property.
  6. Managing Spaces: The objective is to “reconcile tourist activities with ongoing, everyday life in the city.” The city is striving to reduce pressure on the most congested places and at the same time to “ensure universal accessibility”. Barcelona is developing district tourism management plans, plans for crowded places, working to reduce environmental impacts and implementing “policies to counteract pressure on the property market.
  7. Economic Development: Barcelona is seeking to “turn tourism into a lever for change, for economic development and social well-being” by “foster[ing] the greatest possible social return on tourist activities” and to do this by encouraging activities which through the creation of shared value contribute to the redistribution of economic benefits to improve the living conditions of city residents and workers.
  8. Communication and Reception: Barcelona is developing more diverse narratives to engage residents and visitors in the discovery of other realities and improving their experience of the city. Communication not only determines “visitors’ expectations at source but also potentially shape flows and practices at the destination.” Offering “visitors a broader range of possibilities than overcrowded icons, ” improving visitor reception and information services, “to improve their experience while reducing the pressure on over-visited spaces.
  9. Taxation and Funding: Barcelona is designing “new tax measures to achieve the right balance between the costs and economic gains of tourist activities” to address the externalities of tourism.
  10. Regulation and Planning: Barcelona recognises that the regulatory and planning instruments need to be adapted to minimise the negative effects of tourist practices and the “new disruptive phenomena not covered by current bylaws have to be regulated, especially with regard to tourist accommodation and competition between economic activities and basic shared resources.” New bylaws and urban planning tools authorised by the General Plan and the Special Urban Development Plan for Tourist Accommodation (PEUAT) and “specific regulations for economic activities in areas with the biggest concentration of visitors in the public space.” This will also require more “inspections of the supply of illegal tourist accommodation” and more collaboration in enforcement across the city government.”


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