Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists? What can we do about it?

Two years ago BBC’s Fast Track programme asked “Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists?” They asked whether mass tourism is spoiling Barcelona’s charm and authenticity.

It’s an important question. Some would argue that the city and city life have been improved by tourism. Others are increasingly expressing concern about the changes which tourism is bringing to the city and the negative impacts that come with them. Has Barcelona been too successful in attracting tourism?   View video 1

Others are asking who the port of Barcelona for – is it for locals or is it to become an “elite home port to the world’s ocean going playboys and playgirls.” Is Barcelona becoming Two Cities?  View video 2

Is Barcelona using tourism to bring economic development and to make Barcelona and Catalunya a better place to live? Are the people of Barcelona and Catalunya benefiting from tourism?  

Or is Barcelona being used by tourists and the tourism industry to the detriment to those live and work in the city?

 The October Conference being organised  by TSI jointly with ICRT Barcelona Catalunya on behalf of Dirección General de Turisme, Agencia Catalana de Turisme, Ayuntamiento de Barcelona, Diputación de Barcelona and Turismo de Barcelona.is your opportunity to participate in the debate alongside government agencies, the Catalan and international tourism  industry and contribute to framing the declaration which will address how Barcelona and Catalunya can use tourism to make it  a better place for people to live in.  

The mainstream industry is represented at a senior level and there are several important keynotes explaining why Responsible Tourism makes business sense for operators and hoteliers. Senior figures from outbound tourism and operators, hotels and trade associations in Barcelona are coming together in Barcelona on October 3rd and 4th to discuss the challenges which Barcelona and Catalunya face as tourism continues to grow.

Barcelona has been, and remains, a really successful destination with rapid growth since the Olympics in 1992, in 1993 Barcelona had 2.5 million visitors – in 2012 it had 10 million. What kind of tourism does Barcelona want for the future? Has Barcelona become little more than a congested amusement park for northern Europeans arriving on cheap flights?  

The programme for RTD7, the 7th International Conference on Responsible Tourism, is now nearly finalised. Few panellist or speaker slots remain. If you want to contribute please get in touch very soon.

Please share the programme with your friends and colleagues – the conference promises to be the best yet and there will be lots of opportunity to listen, discuss, debate and argue about how best to achieve sustainability – how to respond to the challenges and use tourism to make better places to live in , and better places to visit.

The business case for Responsible Tourism

Garry Wilson, Managing Director – Purchasing at TUI Travel PLC. Garry heads the overseas buying activity in all mainstream source markets for TUI Travel plc. He will speak on The Business Case for Responsible Tourism and why TUI places such importance on sustainability.

  • Pere Duran, General Director of Barcelona Turisme
  • Mark Robinson, Managing Director, Intercruiseshoreside and portside services
  • Santiago Hernandez, General Director of Hotel Barcelona Princess
  • Jason Freezer, Head of Destination Management, VisitEngland
  • Jane Ashton, Head of Sustainable Development atTUI Travel PLC, on What TUI is doing to ensure that tourism becomes more sustainable.
  • Marta Martín, VP Corporate Responsibility NH Hotels and International Tourism Partnership Member
  • Andy Cooper, Director of Government and External Affairs, Thomas Cook Group
  • Frederic Gonzalo,  Gonzo Marketing,  Canadian, strategic marketing consultant & social media expert, on why destinations must embrace social networks towards Responsible Tourism.
  • Dr Xavier Font Leeds Metropolitan University, on marketing Responsible Tourism, authenticity and keeping it real.

The importance of Responsible Tourism  to Destination Management

The destination management agencies responsible for the development tourism in Barcelona will be talking about the dramatic change which has come to the city since the Olympics, discussing some of the challenges of being such an iconic destination for city and cruise tourism

Looking back:

  • How has tourism impacted on Barcelona and Catalunya?  Carles Domingo-Pagès, Director General Creuers del Port de Barcelona.
  • Dr. Jose Antonio Donaire, from University of Girona on the Mediterranean view
  • Carlos Cabrera, consultant at Institut Cerdà on the Catalunya perspective and
  • Joana Homs, adjunta de direcció from Turisme de Barcelona, on the Barcelonan experience


Josep Capellà, DCB Turisme, and other key contributors to the Conference Field Trip to the Costa Brava seaside town, L’Estartit i Torroella de Montgrí, will discuss what destinations can do to “turn things around” and present  conclusions Wednesday’s conference excursion.

Wednesdays excursion and the round table will engage

  • Martin Brackenbury, former president of the International Federation of Tour Operators (IFTO), who was involved in council-led efforts to  ”rebalance” tourism in Calvià, Majorca.
  • Josep Capellà, presenting the case of L’Estartit and Torroella following decades of involvement here.
  • Luis Falcon, from Intelligent Coast
  • Maurici Carbó, Manager of Lloret de Mar Tourism
  • Ricard Pie, Universitat de Barcelona, Urbanisme i Ordenació del Territori
  • Peter Lane, L&R Consulting

Looking forward: how do we want to use tourism?

  • Nikki White, Head of Destinations and Sustainability at The Travel Association, ABTA “What can outbound tour operators, organised through their trade association, contribute to making destinations better places to live in, and better places to visit?”
  • Daniel Pearce, Brand Director and Editor of TTG will interview, centre stage and on the record for publication, local Catalan experts as he asks question about what he has heard about where Barcelona and Catalunya are heading with their destination, and asks “Where do we go from here?”

This is followed by a round table when those responsible in government for the management of tourism in Barcelona and Catalunya will talk about how it can be made more sustainable: 

  • Mr. Joan Torrella, Operations Director for  Tourism & Events, Barcelona City Council
  • Mr. Patrick Torrent, subdirector de l’Agència Catalana de Turisme
  • Mr. Francesc Vila, Director of Tourism Services, Diputació de Barcelona (Provincial Government)


We have excellent panels on

  •     Widening social participation in tourism: access for all
  •     Managing Cruise Tourism in the Mediterranean
  •     Taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of tourism
  •     The role of government in destination planning and management
  •     Sense of place, responsibility and the visitor experience

The industry is well represented amongst the panellists too – take a look

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