Updated on May 29, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

As the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona remains one of the world’s most attractive tourist destinations.

It has been said that the 1992 Olympic Games was instrumental in attracting tourists.

Essentially, the city had to be transformed for the games, and the efforts have paid off. The city remains in the top ten for European destinations when considering the number of overnight stays.

In this guide, we will look at tourism statistics and trends for Barcelona. We will also look at Barcelona’s most popular attractions, remote workers trends, and Barcelona’s tourist profile.

Tourism Statistics

Barcelona Tourism Statistics AndTrends
  • In 2022, hotels and tourist accommodation received 9.7 million tourists
  • Of those 9.7 million tourists, the majority (6.9697m) stayed in hotels with 2.362m staying in homes designed for tourist use. This includes such properties as AirBNBs which remain popular in the city.
  • There was a total of 29.8 million overnight stays.
  • The average length of a stay in Barcelona was up to 3.1 nights, compared to 2.7 in 2019.
  • As a city, the Catalonian capital remains the preferred destination in Spain for tourists from overseas. That’s more than the Spanish capital, Madrid.
  • In total, 79% of the visitors to Barcelona come from abroad with the rest being domestic Spanish tourists.
  • Of those visitors from abroad, France (over 107,000 tourists), the US (70,000), the UK, and Italy (over 54,000 tourists each) brought up the largest numbers.
  • The locals in the city also seem to consider tourism as a positive with 61.7% of those surveyed saying it was beneficial. However, there are calls for the ‘tourist tax’ to be increased and limits placed on the number of tourists coming to the city.
  • A further 80.6% believe that tourism creates jobs and some welcome economic growth. That’s seen in the sheer number of employees in the tourism industry. Many of them have permanent contracts as opposed to temporary ones.
  • In terms of a total spend in the city, as an estimate, those tourists spent around 1.9 million euros during the summer. This does not take into account the travel throughout the city or the cost of accommodation. Such an amount indicates how crucial the restaurants are to the city as gastronomy was a proven reason to visit.

Tourism Trends

  • Both the number of tourists and overnight stays is still impressive yet down on those numbers recorded in 2019 which remains a record year.
  • The number of tourists staying in homes for tourist use continues to increase. Such homes, like AirBNBs, provide an alternative option to hotels and their numbers are up from 923,700 in 2020 to 1.2626m in 2021.
  • Those tourists who stayed in guesthouses and inns also rose from 160,800 in 2020 and 198,600 in 2021 to 411,900 in 2022. That is still down on 2019’s number which hit 770,200.
  • It’s a similar case for the number of tourists staying in tourist apartments which increased from 44,300 in 2020 and rose to 47,600 in 2021. The 2022 figure stands at 145,500 in 2022 which is still down from 2019’s number of 227,700.
  • Tourists from Spain also showed an improved number as there was a 6.8% rise in the number when compared to 2019.
  • The tourism sector continues to do well with 157,000 employment contracts being signed in the past year.
  • Of those contracts, 45.3% of them were permanent which is a growing number.
  • Temporary contracts are also down in the tourism sector at 54.7% in 2022, down from 88.4% in 2019.
  • Unemployment in the tourism sector also fell, down to 6,703 which is 23.5% lower than what it was in 2019 and its lowest amount since 2007.
  • Business travel remained a key element for the number of visitors to the city. A lot of the attraction was down to international and national meetings, exhibitions, and conventions, as well as incentives. You can also count on the number of remote workers in the city too, many of whom are deciding to stay.

Remote Workers Trends

Barcelona Tourism StatisticsAndTrends
  • Barcelona has been featured in the list of best city destinations for remote workers.
  • That placing was down to the second-quickest average Wi-Fi speed and co-working spaces that ranked amongst the third-highest of those cities.
  • For digital nomads, Barcelona also ranked sixth for the most visits.
  • Should digital nomads earn enough to support their stay in the city (double the minimum monthly income in Spain), they can live with their families.
  • To take advantage of the number of remote workers coming to Barcelona, a new ‘digital nomad’ visa has been launched. This is aimed at those from outside Spain who work remotely or use telecommunication for their employment.

Most Popular Attractions

While the 1992 Olympic Games was transformative for the city, a lot of its most popular attractions still remain. That includes some of Europe’s most impressive architecture and cultural buildings.

FC Barcelona remains popular with tourists, even without Lionel Messi playing for them. There is still the club’s tour and museum to enjoy, as well as the club’s home matches.

  • At the top of the list of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona are Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família and Park Güell.
  • La Sagrada Família is still not finished but received just over a million visitors in 2021.
  • Further down the list, Barcelona’s Aquarium and Zoo with 692,800 and 621,100 visitors respectively.
  • Next were Montjuic Cable Car, CosmoCaixa, and El Born Centre Cultural. Historical, recreational, and cultural sites remained popular with tourists as Tibidabo Park, CaixiaForum Barcelona, and Montjuic Castle rounded off the top ten.
  • There are nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the city of Barcelona, each chosen for its stunning architectural design and value.
  • Alongside La Sagrada Família and Park Güell, the list of UNESCO sites includes five more Gaudi works.
  • These include Palau Güell which is a mansion just off La Ramblas in his modernist style. There’s also Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, and his first work in the city; Casa Vicens which remains popular too.
  • Antoni Gaudí also contributed his own crypt to Colonia Güell, a company town built for textile workers.
  • While Hospital de Sant Pau was closed as a hospital in 2009, the modernist style was designed by Domenech i Montaner. The other UNESCO Heritage World Site designed by Montaner is Palau de la Musica Catalana. A stunning, spacious structure that is well worth a visit simply to see how the arena is filled with natural light.
  • Other top attractions include Barcelona’s History Museum and the museum devoted to the work of Pablo Picasso.

Barcelona’s Tourist Profile

BarcelonaTourism StatisticsAndTrends

In general terms, you can build a profile of the typical tourist that visits Barcelona.

  • The majority of the city’s tourists are male at 59.2%
  • The largest age group amongst these tourists is those aged between 25 and 34 years old.
  • Gastronomy is the most popular reason for visitors to make a trip to Barcelona.
  • Each of these visitors pays five euros as a daily tourist tax fee when it comes to holiday homes.
  • In terms of international visitors, there is a 79.2% share.

Final Thoughts

In terms of the number of overnight stays in hotels, Barcelona is the ninth most popular city in Europe.

That’s 6.1m, up from 3.92 m in 2020 but still down on the record year of 2019 which had 19.85m bed nights.

Across Europe, you can see a similar story where 2019 remains a record year but tourists are coming back since then.

The encouraging thing for Barcelona is that the main attractions are buildings that seem to have an everlasting appeal; such as the unfinished La Sagrada Família.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do The Local Residents Of Barcelona Want To Limit The Number Of Tourists?

Many of the tourism trends for Barcelona show a city that benefits from the rise in visitors, but there is talk of limiting their numbers.

There is the suggestion that the destination has suffered from over-tourism since 2016.

With a population of around 1.65 million, the number of tourists can eclipse that of the local residents during peak season.

Occasionally, this can be seen in anti-tourist graffiti on the walls down popular streets.

What Are The Top Museums To Be Found In Barcelona?

If you are a fan of world-class art then you need to visit Barcelona.

Not only is there a museum dedicated to Pablo Picasso but also one for Salvador Dalí while Antoni Tapies and Joan Miró have foundations dedicated to them.

There’s also a Chocolate Museum which comes with edible tickets and FC Barcelona’s Museum which is essential for football fans.

Bear in mind that certain museums are closed on Mondays though the Picasso Museum is free every first Sunday of the month.

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