Barcelona Global Summit: Ten proposals to improve relation between tourism and city

Barcelona Global Summit: Ten proposals to improve relation between tourism and city

Barcelona Global presented today a set of strategic proposals “as a proactive path, that serves to construct” in order to improve the relation of the tourism sector with the city of Barcelona and its citizens, as claimed by Barcelona Global president, Gonzalo Rodés, during the celebration of the 1st Barcelona Global Summit: Innovation in Urban Tourism, which has taken place in the CaixaForum.

The entity has analyzed the evolution of the sector, which has been questioned in recent times given that, despite having benefits, it generates externalities that affect the city and the day-to-day of citizens, such as overcrowding, coexistence between visitors and neighbors, the homogenization of Barcelona in the world or the social sustainability of a model that has been called into question.

Participants of the Summit included sponsors from over forty companies and institutions of different areas. This diversity in terms of sectors, companies and sensibilities is a demonstration of the transversal element with which Barcelona Global has worked to present its proposals, aimed at strengthening the relation between tourism and the city.

In order to optimize this relation, alleviating the issues cited and enhancing the benefits, Barcelona Global proposes the following:

1. Encouragement of public-private collaborations: Counting on the private sector to develop and invest in areas of interest for the visitor and to regenerate areas that suffer from overcrowding and homogenization.
It is proposed to first adapt to the Spanish market and then apply the public-private collaboration model known as BID (Business Improvement Districts), which allowed reshaping different areas in New York. Paral·lel could be a new area of interest, just like 42nd Street or Times Square; or the Cultural District of L’Hospitalet could be dynamized in Barcelona, just as Brooklyn has been in New York.

Similarly, an important step is to encourage the role and participation of the private sector in the governance of tourism, in order to strengthen the function of the Tourism of Barcelona in the current competitive environment or recover La Rambla for citizens.

2. Use of technology to improve the visitor’s experience and the coexistence with residents. Particularly through:

A) Information for visitors and residents to improve mobility: Creating a technological platform where a single application gathers the information on tourist attractions, how to get to them, the city’s offers on what to do, when to do it and how, thus improving the tourist experience.

B) Housing and smart management of tourist apartments:

• Apply a regulatory model in Barcelona to limit the time and occupancy of housing units for tourism, similar to that introduced in Amsterdam or San Francisco.

• Transparency: Create a smart management system that brings together all the information regarding tourist apartments.

• IBI Reviews that involve whole residential buildings to equate taxation to the highest profitability that tourism can reach regarding housing. The resources gathered should help finance programs for social housing, which are today more necessary than ever.

3. Music as an activity that generates added value: Use culture, and music in particular, as an element to position the city; through the creation of the platform “Barcelona is music”, to be integrated by the main music carriers, create a global positioning campaign and schedule activities of interest during off-season, New Year’s or other key moments, favoring de-seasonalization and bestowing an innovative musical narrative on the city.

Introduce a surcharge in the Tourism Tax to equip a Fundo of Support for Culture that could be managed through a public-private structure for the decision of projects to develop. The expectation is that the fund could reach a minimum of 6 million euros.

4. Improve the perception of tourism by part of residents through the following:

A) Visualize the contributions of tourism: Creation of the “Project financed with the Tourism Tax” seal to identify all those initiatives that have been financed through this tax in Barcelona.

B) Social responsibility of the sector: Creation of a certification oriented towards visualizing good labor practices in tourist establishments. It would accredit equal pay for equal work between women and men, and equal pay for equal work between in-house staff and external workers.

In his speech, Gonzalo Rodés highlighted the need to introduce these measures in a sector that is a driving force behind the economic activity of Barcelona, generates 15% of GDP in the city and represents 10% of employment. “There is no global city that is not also a tourist city. We all want to visit those cities that we admire for their vitality, offerings, architecture, history and activity”, he stated, insisting on the need to strengthen a vital sector for the city. He added: “We had options: that of complaints and nostalgia or the chosen path, which is proactive and serves to construct”.

The proposals of Barcelona Global have been prepared by representatives of the economic and business worlds who are partners of the entity, with the guidance of international urban planner and consultant, Professor Greg Clark. The work has been developed throughout several sessions and working groups, pivoting around four major areas of action: generation of new offerings with added value; diversification of spaces, co-management and creation of new areas of interest; reinvestment of the economic impact of tourism; and the use of new technologies.

Examining New York, Amsterdam, Cape City and Miami

Presentations will take place throughout the 1st Barcelona Global Summit exposing case studies of different international capitals that have successfully overcome challenges similar to those faced by Barcelona, used for the creation of proposals by part of highlighted international experts:

• “Diversification of locations and creation of new areas of interest”. To be presented by Carl Weisbrod from the Department of City Planning of New York.

• “Promotion of activities with added value to attract new audiences and de-seasonalize tourism”. To be presented by Deede Weithorn, former city commissioner of Miami.

• “Return the positive economic impact of tourism”. Cape Town International Convention Center CEO Julie-May Ellingson will present this South African success story.

• “Technology as a means of improving the visitor’s experience.” Amsterdam Marketing Marketing Director Geerte Udo will explain the strategic actions promoted in the Dutch capital.

The Barcelona brand in the world’s eyes

The home stretch of the 1st Barcelona Global Summit will involve a talk titled “Barcelona visions”, with the contributions of chef Ramon Freixa (Único Hotel Madrid, 2 Michelin stars); Italian architect Benedetta Tagliabue; doctor Antonio de Lacy; director of the department for Gastrointestinal Surgery at Hospital Clínico; and Fernando Aleu, president of the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York. The presentation will be led by Pau Guardans.
Finally, the Summit will close with a session by professor and urban planner Greg Clark, with the talk “Relaunching the tourism sector after a crisis”, which will serve to identify proposals that can contribute to strengthening the Barcelona brand.

The 1st Barcelona Global Summit: Innovation in Urban Tourism has received the contribution and expertise of members from the organizing team: Barcelona Global president, Gonzalo Rodés; the entity’s vice-president and Único Hotels president, Pau Guardans; CEO Mateu Hernández; Advanced Leisure Services president, Ángel Díaz; Value Retail Group general manager for Spain and corporate director, Michael Goldenberg; founder and owner of Axel Hotels, Juan Julià; Grupo Julià general manager for Spain, Marian Muro; PortAventura president, Arturo Mas-Sardà and Barcelona Global projects director, Anna Casadellà.