The association ‘Barcelona Global’ organised a two-day roadshow in London this week to promote the Catalan capital as a place to visit, work, and invest after a rough patch for the city’s reputation, the first time such an event has been organised on behalf of a Spanish city.
“London, here we are: 53 proud barcelonians to share and open Barcelona to you, talented people,” Barcelona Global announce by tweet on June 13th. The organisation, which describes itself as a “private, independent and non-profit association made up of 200 of the city’s leading companies, research centers, entrepreneurs, business schools, universities and cultural institutions, and more than 730 professionals aiming to make Barcelona one of the world’s best cities for talent and economic activity,” was in London to tell the world how great Barcelona is.
— Barcelona Global (@BarcelonaGlobal) June 13, 2019
Why Barcelona London Day? As they explain “The Barcelona London Day has five different tracks in five emblematic venues in London, each one with a different audience in mind and with the goal that opinion leaders, investors, media and specialized agents in each sector know the proposals that Barcelona offers as an attractive city for talent and economic activity.” According to Barcelona’s local paper La Vanguardia, they were hoping to reach 400 “top londoners”, and chose London because it’s a “magnificent loudspeaker to the world,” in the words of Pau Guardans, president of Barcelona Global. Quite elitist then, you could argue, but let’s face it, you don’t organise a roadshow in London to reach 400 chavs.
“These days are part of the Agenda Barcelona program that the association has launched to improve the international reputation of Barcelona,” explains the blurb.
“The commitment of more than 50 of our members is the best way to explain that Barcelona is a place to trust and to invest,” said Guardans, at the kick-off event.
Barcelona, is there a problem?
The sub-text, of course, is that Barcelona now has a reputation problem that needs to be fixed.
They came up with the idea of a Barcelona roadshow in London at the end of 2017, when Barcelona had been through a rough patch with a terrorist attack, local demonstrations against tourism, and political conflict with some Catalans trying to force a rupture with Spain. The sky over Barcelona was “very overcast”, in the words of Guardans.
“We don’t want to hide the fact that Barcelona has as political problem that has to be resolved, and which will certainly take time,” says Guardans. Their goal is to show that, despite its political problems, there are many sides to Barcelona, and it’s still a happening city.
“Looking after the international reputation of Barcelona, protecting our brand, and demonstrating the value of our great assets at a politically difficult time is essential if we are to continue aspiring to be one of the best cities in the world for talent and economic activity,” explains Guardans, in comments to the local press.
One of the key events at Barcelona London Day was a seminar “Barcelona: an opportunity to invest” with presentations by Josep Oliu, Chairman of Sabadell Bank, and Marc Puig, Chairman and CEO of Puig. This seminar included a look at Barcelona as a real estate and tourism investment opportunity. I wasn’t invited, so can’t comment on what was discussed, but I can say that Barcelona is much riskier than you might think for professional investors, who will find the local authority hostile and uncooperative. Private individuals buying a property in Barcelona, on the other hand, should have no problems if they do their due diligence.
What are the political problems that have damaged the city’s reputation, which Barcelona Global allude to but don’t explain? I would say, on the one hand, a drive to break away from Spain supported by some two million Catalans that has left the region poisonously divided and rudderless, and on the other a hard-left political force led by current Mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, that vilifies tourism, gentrification, and real estate investors, especially the foreign kind, whom are seen as speculators and vultures. I doubt these problems got much airtime in London, but they need to be taken into consideration when investing in Barcelona.
I totally agree with Barcelona Global about the many faces of Barcelona. You can live here oblivious to the political problems, and it really is the most wonderful city to live in if the poisonous politics doesn’t touch your life.
Although, from what I can tell, their efforts didn’t lead to a single mention in the British or international media (other than this article), I think it’s great that people who love Barcelona are out there promoting my hometown to an international audience. But attracting global talent leads to gentrification, which will go down like led balloon with the current Mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau.