In 1990 Barcelona’s hotels hosted 1.73 million guests, whereas in 2019 almost 9.5 million people decided to spend at least one night in their premises. Americans, French and British accounted for the main inbound markets. Considering the rest of the regulated accommodation options, however, numbers increase to nearly 14 million tourists. Barcelona's influence on tourism in the region likely contributes to Catalonia being one of the most visited Spanish regions by international tourists.
Barcelona’s main tourist attractionsBarcelona might have the Olympic Games to thank for its current international renown, but it is its attractive cultural offer that has consolidated the city as one of the main tourist destinations in the world. Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, and museums such as those devoted to Pablo Picasso and FC Barcelona, are only a few examples from a very long list of unmissable places and monuments in Catalonia’s capital city. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia - still unfinished - and Park Güell receive over 4.5 million and 3.1 million visitors a year, respectively, topping the ranking of Barcelona’s most visited attractions. FC Barcelona Museum, visited by some 1.66 million people in 2019, ranks third.
A place for every type of visitorAlthough most of the people that travel to Barcelona for leisure or vacation purposes, business travelers made up a fifth of the visitors in 2019. The MICE industry plays a key role in the city’s economy, with hundreds of both national and international meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions attracting thousands of professionals from all around Spain and the globe. With nearly 157 thousand participants, Barcelona topped the list of the leading international meeting destinations in Europe. The famous Mobile World Congress, whose 2020 edition was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, had an impact of around 473 million euros for the local economy in 2019.
In general terms, tourists prefer to fly to Barcelona and they spend an average of around 355 euros on transportation and 140 euros on accommodation and other expenses per day. Over 70 percent of visitors are aged 44 or younger and almost half of them had already visited the city. This is a confirmation of the city’s attractiveness, which, by contrast, is considered harmful by some segments of the local population.
Platforms such as Airbnb are said to contribute to the gentrification of many districts, making life more expensive for residents. According to a survey run by the city council in 2019, 5.2 percent of citizens in Barcelona saw tourism as their main problem. Nevertheless, that share went down from 15.6 percent in 2017, which could be partly explained by the so-called tourist tax, collected by the regional government since 2012. Tourists are charged up to 3.5 euros a night, depending on the type of accommodation, and 50 percent of the money raised is used to fund sustainability projects.