Economic Growth and Tourism

The combined investments to transform the city and host the Olympic Games played a key role in the economic growth and increase of tourism in Barcelona.

David Ramos/Getty Images | Tourists visit the Antoni Gaudi's Parc Guell. Tourism is one of the largest contributors to the welfare of Spain's economy.

Barcelona’s general unemployment rate fell from 18.4 per cent to 9.6 per cent between 1986 and 1992, while Spain’s national figures in the same period fell from 20.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent.

Investment in urban infrastructure was a key factor, but the Olympic Games also produced other important benefits, such as the establishment in 1993 of Turisme de Barcelona, the organisation responsible for promoting tourism in the city. A strategic tourism and action plan were started in 1992, aiming to keep the momentum created by hosting the Olympic Games. Since then, Barcelona has targeted sports and business tourism in particular.

The sea cruise sector, another important sector for tourism in Barcelona, was also developed in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. The “Maritime Hotels Plan” for the Olympic Games was developed to mark the turning point in Barcelona’s positioning as the Mediterranean and Europe’s number one cruise port.

After the Games, tourism in Barcelona continued to grow: Barcelona welcomed 1.7 million visitors in 1992, a number which had increased to 7.4 million in 2011 and 8.3 million in 2015, a significant figure for a city of 1.6 million inhabitants. While a multitude of factors were certainly involved, such as more low-cost flights serving the Catalan capital, it is widely accepted that the Olympic Games played a part in this growth.

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