Pere Duran i Vall-llossera: Barcelona, capital of the Mediterranean favoured by visitors of the whole world

Barcelona is a well-known insider tip for tourism. In the past decade, the Catalan capital has been a showcase for miracles that have been achieved in city tourism in Europe by duplicating its numbers of visitors. The stimulus provided by the Olympic Games of 1992 has placed it amongst the “club of world cities”, thereby becoming an international reference for urban tourism. With 13 million annual overnight stays and around six million tourists per year, Barcelona has been the great discovery for holiday tourism in recent years. Credits that it receives in addition to traditional activities in tourism of hosting conferences in the city, a sector, which continues to grow in volume and prestige.

The Catalan capital has revealed itself as a popular destination for tourists.

Citizens from all over the world choose it to spend their vacation here, escaping for a weekend maybe, because of its uniqueness, since in this city with a human flair, they also find a dense and va­­ried offer of enticements and attractions. The cultural heritage pas­sed on by Gaudí and the samples of Modernism in el Eixample; the authenticity of the Gothic Quarter, witness to the Medieval past of the city; the history and en­­chant­­­ment of its streets; the offerings of the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the area dedicated to Picasso opposite it; the services provided; the restaurants, the night activities; its Me­diter­ranean flair; the strength of commercial provisions, which unite a distinct form of great traditional brands and distinguished shops that give it a characteristic feature… A complete list of alternatives, realities, of charming de­­­­­lights, which have merited it the favour of visi­­tors coming from all over the world. Not in vain, nine monuments listed as World He­­ri­tage await the visitor, an identity conferred by the na­­ture of the Catalan capital, comprising one language, one culture and its very own history.

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At the turn of the century, Barcelona has accredited itself as first port for cruise ships in Europe and the Me­­di­terranean, with more than one million passengers per year, while it has also established itself as leader in incentive travel and as emerging hub for great exhibitions and conferences. This year, professional tourism con­­so­lidates its activities in the city with the celebration of great events like the World Con­gress of 3GSM, the most im­­portant mo­­bile telephony trade fair in the world, or the EIBTM, the greatest trade fair in the world of exhibitions on the planet. Conventions that strengthen the in­­ternational standing of a city that has ri­­sen to sixth/seventh place in the rank­­ing of urban travel destinations in the Old Continent in recent years.

As you can se, Barcelona has no lack of cultural heritage. Nor of dynamism, nor of creativity. In past years, the city has relied on promoting the sector of cultural tourism.
In the context of the campaign Bar­ce­lo­­na is culture, the Ca­­talan capital has enlightened the world with events like the International Gaudí Year 2002 or the Universal Barcelona Forum of Cul­­tures 2004, while it served as host to the 2003 World Swim­ming Champion­ship and offered the en­­tire world its laid table at the Year of Nu­trition, Cook­­ing and Gas­tronomy 2005–2006. Really, Barce­lo­na, a city located on the Me­­di­­ter­­ranean Sea, lures permanently. Like, for ex­am­ple, with calls to participate in activ­­ities involving science and sports. Don’t miss its offering options!
The best for shopping
If one had to erect a monument in ho­­n­­our of the unknown shopper, it would have to be erected in Barcelona. The Catalan capital combines, at the sho­res of the Mediterranean Sea, the best se­­lection of great international brands linked with its own offering, with businesses that give it character. With a range of 35,000 shops, Barcelona is a constant temptation for people that take a short trip, a few days of es­­­cape, with a good shopping spree.
The Catalan capital draws strength from Europe’s major commercial axis, extending over five kilometres, running like an artery through the en­­tire city centre. Barcelona, which ac­­crues 21 per cent of expenses effected by international tourism spent through­­out the whole of Spain, boasts some of the best commercial streets in Europe, like the Passeig de Gràcia or the Ram­bla de Catalunya, which are a real delight to stroll along. Also, the heart of Bar­celona, the famous Eix­­ample, is a succession of constant shops, one after the other, what ex­­perts call a continu­ous commercial experience.
Just imagine: a shoe shop, next to a uni­­sex clo­thes shop, then a jewellery shop, then large department stores, a pastry shop, a shop suggesting men’s fashion, the latest trends in ladies’ fash­­ion, franchises, own-brand products, fa­­mous brands, offers of small format, a shop window for a talented designer. Final­ly, to go crazy window-shopping, trying on a little model dress, buying gifts for the entire family, and taking advantage of the price difference compared with the place of origin. So, look for something, observe, shop around, have great fun. And ultimately buy­ing.
Barcelona must be enjoyed on the stre­­et: It breathes culture through all its pores and is a genuine temptation for shopping. Going shopping in Bar­­celona has become fashionable. Just allow yourself to be swept a­­­way.

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Europe’s most important port for cruise ships
Today, Barcelona is one of the most favourite ports both of cruise ship passengers and shipping companies. Ac­­cording to the magazine Lloyd’s Cruise International, Barcelona is ranking in first place amongst ports frequented by cruise ships in Europe and the Me­­diterranean. The port of Barcelona has an excellent location on the West of the Me­­di­ter­ra­nean Sea and meets all the conditions required by cruise ship companies to use it as basic home port: a presti­gi­ous city for tourism, a provision of qua­­lity hotels, an airport with international flight connections and port installations de­­dicated exclusively for the use of cruise ships. Furthermore, Barcelona is the centre of a EuroRegion containing a great number of potentials for cruisers. The port of Barcelona disposes of se­­v­en cruise ship terminals that are perfectly equipped to serve the great num­­ber of passengers that arrive here an­­nually. The terminals are located in the heart of the city and dispose of public transport facilities – busses and taxis –, which allows an easy access to any part of the city.

Leader in conference tourism
Barcelona is one of the favourite destinations in Europe to celebrate all kinds of scientific and entrepreneurial reunions: congresses, conventions, product presentations and incentive travel. To this end, Barcelona relies on an excellent infrastructure: a trade fair centre offering 200,000 square kilometres of built-up areas, in­­cluding the Barcelona Con­ference Pa­­lace. Another recently con­­structed con­­­­­ference palace with a capacity to hold 3,000 people. The Palau Sant Jordi, gem of the Olympic Games 1992, which is equally suitable for the presentation of an automobile or a huge banquet, or a fashion show or an in­­door windsurfing competition. And to complete this offer­­ing, the new Con­vention Cen­­tre (CCIB) has been avail­­able since November 2004, ready to host great congresses for up to 15,000 people in a mo­­dern building with state-of-the-art tech­­nology.

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The excellent hotels in Bar­ce­lona provide about 52,000 hotel beds, and es­­pecially its larger houses easily adjust perfectly to the demands posed by com­­panies for conventions and incentive travel. Another attraction in this respect are the countless historical and unique places to celebrate re­­ceptions, gala dinners and fe­­asts, which include Gothic Catalan bui­­l­­dings and of Modernism like some de­­signed by Gaudí. Moreover, Barcelona is also famous be­­cause of its rampant design and cre­­­ativity. These specific qualities, which many of its pro­­fessionals possess, give celebrations and social programmes a very special touch that often involves the history, the culture and the natural en­­vironment of the country.
The Barcelona Tourism Office disposes of a specific programme for the pro­­­motion and service provision to this sector, the Barcelona Convention Bu­­reau. Established in 1983, it has extensive experience in consulting organizers of conferences.

Info: www.barcelonaturisme.com

Pere-Duran_2Born in Barcelona in 1949, the author trained in public administration at ESADE, Barcelona. Working in tourism since 1980, and appointed as Director of “Tourisme de Barcelona” in 1988, he became its General Director in 2000. Pere Duran is a member and chairman of various executive boards in tourism associations and organizations at European and international level.