Barcelona becomes the fifth most popular tourist destination in Europe

Report finds Catalan capital ranks behind London, Paris, Berlin and Rome in overnight stays

Masses of tourists on Bisbe street, near the cathedral.
Masses of tourists on Bisbe street, near the cathedral.JOAN SÁNCHEZ

Barcelona’s popularity with international visitors made it the fifth top European destination in 2014, according to a market report by the hotel sector consultancy group BRIC Consulting.

In number of overnight stays, Barcelona ranked only behind London, Paris, Berlin and Rome, and ahead of Madrid and Istanbul, according to the study.

A chief characteristic of Barcelona tourism is that 80 percent of visitors are foreign, whereas in Madrid it’s the other way around: 60 percent of tourists come from other parts of Spain.

Putting limits on tourism

El País

In her first working meeting with Catalan premier Artur Mas, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau was unable to extract a promise to increase the city’s take on the “tourism fee,” which is added to all hotel bills across the region. Colau, a social activist who won the May 24 election in an upset victory, said she wants 100 percent of the money collected in Barcelona to revert to the city, rather than the current 45 percent.

Even before taking office, Colau had defended the need to put limits on the tourism industry due to complaints from downtown residents who find themselves – and city services – constantly flooded with tourists.

“This made Madrid feel the recession more intensely, but now it is also experiencing a faster recovery,” explains Juan Gallardo, a partner at BRIC Consulting.

France, Britain and the United States continue to be the main countries of origin of visitors to Barcelona.

There were 17.1 million overnight stays in the Catalan capital last year, a 3.7 percent rise from 2013. This increased the interest of investors, who spent €162 million in the city.

But the consultancy notes that the recent moratorium on new tourist accommodation introduced by the new leftist administration has placed several hotel projects on hold.

“We are at a moment of uncertainty right now, but investments are still there on the table and Barcelona remains an attractive city,” says Gallardo.

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