Wondering About Travel Safety for Meetings and Business Travel in Barcelona?

Whether it's Las Vegas, London, Paris, Berlin, Orlando, New York, Barcelona or elsewhere, planners and attendees are paying attention to destination security.
La Rambla at Night
La Rambla at Night in November 2017. © Rob Hard

Everyone who visits Barcelona, Spain seems to have their own reasons why they feel it’s a standout among the world’s cities. And when you think about Barcelona, a variety of contrasting ideas come together: It’s Mediterranean and avant-guard, historic and contemporary, trendy and modernist, and so much more.

This, combined with the fact that the city is fully equipped to host meetings and events, is perhaps why Barcelona consistently ranks among the top cities in the world. In 2016, nearly 2,000 meetings with more than 40 attendees — more than 590,000 attendees. This isn’t a local number — about 87 percent of this comes from international visitors. And they had an economic impact of more than 1.5 billion euros on the Barcelona economy, according to data from the Barcelona Convention Bureau.

“Barcelona provides the perfect backdrop for all occasions with a talented travel and tourism community ready to create the most appropriate atmosphere to match any company’s identity, ideas, interests, objectives and audience,” says Cecile Dorian, international MICE promotion manager for the Barcelona Convention Bureau. “To see and experience these qualities in Barcelona is to observe the inherent nature of its people and its everyday lifestyle which distinguishes this city from all the rest.”

It also doesn’t hurt that this is the host city for IBTM World — a live opportunity to demonstrate Barcelona’s capabilities for large and small programs to the more than 15,000 meetings industry professionals who attend in various capacities from around the world.

The 30th edition of IBMTM World is scheduled for November 28-30, 2017. The focus will be on the next 30 years and beyond, with IBTM World using its legacy as a springboard to support the future of the industry.

It seems that Barcelona’s business travel sector should be headed toward an even higher growth trajectory. However, on August 17, 2017, a terrorist drove a van on the pedestrian walkway of La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s most famous tourist streets in the old town. And, more currently, even peaceful political demonstrations — which typically do not gain international meetings industry attention — are raising questions.

Will travel safety impact Barcelona tourism? 

The Spanish government has remained at a terror alert level four since 2015, and the August 2017 attacks did not change that (level five is the highest and includes soldiers on the streets and at key public places). So the short answer, in my opinion, should be no.

On my recent visit to Barcelona (November 12-15, 2017), it was actually comforting to know and see that public spaces are being watched by uniform and plain clothes police officers. My experience was that it was safe to spend time in the old town both during the day and at night (though I would recommend that everyone should be vigilant when walking in any city at any time of day).

And Barcelona has a combination of many other security measures in place, including cooperation between the Barcelona Convention Bureau and the local police by which event organizers can contact the Barcelona Convention Bureau so their events can be relayed to the police. They, in turn, can take whatever measures they determine to ensure security around the event.

When working with Barcelona, event planners are encouraged to reach out to their contacts at the Barcelona Convention Bureau and ask questions around safety or any concerns they may have.

“Whether they’re working directly with us or not, event planners can call the convention bureau with details about their event so we can transmit their information to the local police. And they will determine the right contact person for the event from there.”

IBTM World Keynote Speaker to Address Security

Organizers announced at the end of August that Dame Stella Rimington, author and the first female director general of MI5, the UK Security Service, as one of two high profile keynote speakers at its milestone 30th IBTM World event.

Drawing on her 27 years’ experience in the Security Service, Dame Stella will discuss her fascinating career and her work in counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism, as well as the industry’s outlook on safety and security going forward.

IBTM’s decision to invite Dame Stella was excellent — it showcases a stance that the meetings industry will address questions around safety and security. Perhaps this keynote and discussion is perfectly timed for the industry.

Note: Cecile Dorian, international MICE promotion manager for France, USA and Canada at Barcelona Convention Bureau may be reached at CDorian@barcelonaturisme.com or +34 933 689 700.

Rob is editor of Business Travel Destinations. He was voted among the top 10 business travel bloggers by USA TODAY 10Best. Rob reviews international destinations for meetings and events — where business travelers go, the hotels where they stay and their lifestyle preferences on the road. He spent more than a decade planning hundreds of corporate events throughout the U.S. for a Fortune 50 company, including meetings, conferences, seminars, executive retreats and other special events. Rob was previously the event planning guide for About.com (owned by The New York Times Company) from 2007 – 2011. His articles have appeared in business travel publications and travel sites internationally.

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