Why is Barcelona a Key Business Meeting Destination?
One of the most exciting things about the MICE industry is the opportunities that it presents to travel the world as part of work. Whether as part of incentive travel, for international meetings or in order to attend events and trade shows, the past few years have made many people keener than ever to travel for all kinds of business meetings and events.
The second largest city in Spain, Barcelona is known for its impressive cultural offering, stunning scenery and Mediterranean climate. The city has become a particular favourite destination in the MICE industry in recent years, hosting all kinds of major conferences and events as well as being the chosen location for plenty of international business meetings.
In this article, we explore Barcelona’s history as a business and MICE destination, discuss why you should choose it as the location for your next event, and share a few top travel tips for what else you can enjoy in the city.
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Barcelona: A Brief Business History
Barcelona's legacy as a business hub began in the 18th-century industrial revolution, when industrial plants began appearing around the city and starting to generate significant growth for the area. This activity increased the population of the city to seven times its original size, and these people brought with them plenty of the arts, culture and history that makes Barcelona such a rich destination now.
Whilst Barcelona's cultural offering attracted a fair number of tourists, it was the 1992 Olympic Games that really transformed the city from an economic and social point of view. This turning point included significant developments in the city’s infrastructure and established it as a hub for economic investment and development in the Mediterranean section of Europe.
The combined prosperity of Barcelona as a travel destination and place of economic success is what began to make it such a popular location for events, meetings and conventions. The combination of such popular tourist attractions alongside a fantastic urban infrastructure and selection of venues and accommodation meant that Barcelona became one of Spain’s top-rated business travel destinations, and now several significant global conferences are held in the city, including IBTM.
In 2021, Spain was ranked as the second most popular country in the world for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, according to The International Congress and Convention Association’s Destination Performance Index (DPI) 2021. This index also ranked Barcelona as the fourth best and most popular city for association meetings, and it has frequently appeared in this top ten list over the last couple of years.
Why Choose Barcelona For Your Company’s Next Event?
There’s more to Barcelona’s popularity as a MICE destination than just its legacy as an exceptional place to travel. Below are some of the key reasons why you should choose this city for your company’s next event.
Easy Airport Access
Barcelona Airport–El Prat (BCN) is the main airport for travellers arriving by plane in the city and the second-largest airport in Spain. It’s only a 15-minute drive from the centre of Barcelona, making the city an incredibly accessible place for those flying from abroad, as you can land in Spain and be checked into your hotel in less than an hour.
Girona-Costa Brava Airport and Reus International Airport can also be used to reach Barcelona, so there are plenty of options that make it an incredibly well-connected city to the rest of the world.
Great Rail Connections
Air travel is perhaps the most convenient and time-efficient option for business or ‘bleisure’ travellers, but Barcelona is also a fantastic place to visit if you want to arrive by train. The city is connected to many other Spanish destinations by train, with effective transport infrastructure that makes it easy to get to Barcelona from almost anywhere else in the country.
If you’re already in Europe, this real network also makes it easy to travel by train to Barcelona from other nearby countries. Barcelona Sants is the city’s main railway station, serving as a hub for commuter, local and regional rail services as well as national and international arrivals and departures. The station is a less than 30-minute journey away from the city’s famous Gothic Quarter.
Fast Public Transport
Speaking of transport infrastructure, Barcelona is also known for its public transport systems that make it straightforward to get around the city relatively quickly. The Barcelona Metro underground rail system is one of the most popular modes of transport, but there are also regular buses connecting the city’s neighbourhoods as well as covering routes to other nearby destinations.
The public transport options make Barcelona a fantastic choice for an event as attendees have a range of options for travelling around the city and getting to and from the event venue.
Range of Venues
Barcelona's prosperity as a tourist destination means that it’s got an incredible range of accommodation, from 5-star hotels to self-catering properties and all kinds of things in between. On top of this, the city has plenty of specific event venues that are regularly used to host conferences, trade shows and events for other industries. So when it comes to hosting events you have plenty of places to choose from that are well-equipped for all kinds of meetings and events.
Another benefit of the selection of event venues available in Barcelona is the city’s beautiful architecture. Instead of the same modern, indistinguishable conference venues, you can enjoy stunning historical buildings and plenty of unique design elements and host an event that your attendees won’t forget in a hurry.
Whether you’re a tourist, local or visiting digital nomad, a major benefit of Barcelona is the city’s widespread free wifi. Barcelona WiFi is one of Europe’s largest free wifi networks and extends across the city right to the coast, meaning that it’s possible to access fast and secure wifi when you’re at the beach!
Whilst all event and meeting venues will come with their own internet connection, the city-wide free wifi is a great benefit if you’re visiting Barcelona for business, as it allows you to work from almost anywhere and stay connected no matter where you’re visiting during your trip.
Plenty of Tourist Attractions
One of the major draws of travelling for business and events is the opportunity to enjoy exploring a new place in your free time. We’ve already mentioned Barcelona's status as a popular travel destination, but we’re going to mention it again as a benefit of choosing the city as the place to host your next company event.
There is a brilliant range of tourist attractions scattered around Barcelona, from art and history venues to street architecture and miles of beautiful beach. People will be much more likely to want to attend your meeting or event if it’s in a city that has such positive reviews from visitors and offers plenty of different activities if you want to explore.
Creativity Around Every Corner
Barcelona is famous for its Gothic and Modernist architecture, particularly that of the famous artist and architect Antoni Gaudí. The cultural legacy of the city has inspired countless artists and creatives over the years, which makes Barcelona a brilliant place to host an event or meeting if you want to inspire your attendees.
There’s nothing like visiting a new place to spark new ideas, which can be great if you’re bringing people together with the purpose of innovation and creativity. If this is the top of the agenda for your next event, Barcelona is a wonderful place to offer plenty of inspiration.
When it comes to foodie experiences in Spain, Barcelona is one of the best places to visit. Catalonian and Mediterranean cuisine in particular can be enjoyed across a wide range of top-rated restaurants, so when it comes to choosing catering for your event, you won’t be disappointed with your options.
Something that makes Barcelona such a fantastic place to visit is its scenery. You’ve got the coast and the mountains on either side of the city, meaning that you can enjoy a diverse selection of Spanish scenery on top of the history and urban architecture you’ll find around Barcelona.
Barcelona’s scenery not only makes it a particularly beautiful place to visit, but gives visitors plenty of places to explore during their stay. In the summer a trip to the beach is strongly recommended, whilst hiking in the mountains is a great option when the weather is a little cooler.
History of Hosting Events
As mentioned in the previous section, Barcelona has a reputation for being a popular city for hosting events, meetings, conferences and incentive travel trips. This is a real benefit if you choose to follow in these past events’ footsteps, as there is already a lot of advice out there for things like the best venues and places to stay. Barcelona’s reputation might also boost the popularity of your event, as it’s seen as such a hub for some of the key moments in the calendar in all kinds of industries.
Sustainable Tourism Status
As a final incentive for choosing Barcelona, the city has been given a Biosphere Certification that indicates that the city is dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable tourism. If your company has similar values when it comes to sustainability then choosing a location that mirrors this is a great option for your brand, as well as helping to support efforts that will hopefully encourage other locations to start doing the same.
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What Else Can You Do in Barcelona?
To round off this guide to Barcelona’s status as a key business meeting destination, we wanted to share some of the top recommendations of what else you can see and do in the city, to inspire your itinerary if you plan to visit.
Visit the Sagrada Família
The Sagrada Família is perhaps Barcelona’s most famous tourist attraction, and maybe one of the best-known sites in Spain. Designed by Antoni Gaudí and featuring a number of incredible design features and stained glass windows, the cathedral isn’t actually finished yet as the work is still ongoing according to the artist’s plans, making it all the most popular because of this ‘work-in-progress’ status that has been ongoing for over 100 years.
Explore Park Güell
Park Güell is another of the legacies that Gaudí left in Barcelona; a huge public park decorated in his signature style and home to some of his famous pieces of art. It’s part park, part gallery and part museum, and makes a fantastic location for an afternoon of culture.
Relax at the Parc de la Ciutadella
If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience of a public park, the Parc de la Ciutadella near Ciutat Vella is the place to visit. Once one of the only green spaces in Barcelona, it’s a large and beautiful space that is ideal for a stroll or a picnic, boasting a rowing lake, zoo and bandstand.
Watch the Lights at the Magic Fountain
At the base of the steps leading up to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) you’ll find an attraction known as the ‘Magic Fountain’. On several evenings throughout the week, the fountain erupts in bursts of light and colour to an impressive soundtrack, attracting plenty of tourists to marvel at the impressive light show set to plenty of recognisable pieces of music.
See the Abandoned Olympic Stadium
The Barcelona Olympic Stadium, or Estadi Olímpic, was refurbished for the famous 1992 games that triggered a major period of change and improvement for the city. However, the stadium is currently sitting mainly unused and remains an impressive but slightly eerie venue that is definitely worth a visit.
Barcelona is a fantastic destination to host meetings, events and conferences, and we’re not just saying that because IBTM World takes place there in 2022. From the cultural legacy to the stunning views and fantastic tourism infrastructure, it’s a city that we have no doubt will continue to thrive in its continued success as a hub for the MICE industry.
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