Barcelona City Performance, Brand Image and Reputation

Barcelona is one of Europe’s most visited cities, thanks to its architecture, history and good climate. However, it is also a city that is suffering from its own success as a tourist destination, as protests against overtourism, Airbnb and tourist apartments showed. What do the different city rankings say about Barcelona’s success?

In our Barcelona guide:

  • Barcelona and sustainability;
  • The city’s attractiveness for talent, businesses, investors;
  • How attractive for digital nomads?
  • Barcelona city reputation;
  • Innovation and creativity potential, and global influence of Barcelona.

Charles Landry on Barcelona:

Think back briefly to Barcelona just post-Franco – a city of grime, crime and sleaze, shaped much in the public imagination by Jean Genet’s A Thief’s Journey. Then its astonishing re-emergence triggered by the Olympics of 1992. It rediscovered its confidence and we discovered its unique design, art and urbanity. It was a model of urban reinvention and edgy distinctiveness and it seemed to exude a special Catalan imagination and creativity and this identity gave it some drive and energy.

Yet the influx of outsiders helped too. Barcelona has been compelling and popular if not too popular and now it wants to retrench. It has a different problem for its creativity as mayor Ada Colau seeks to recapture the city for its citizens.

What innovative ways will she invent to curtail gentrification pressures, to get the best from the city’s tourists and still maintain its cutting edge feel?

Barcelona and sustainability

How well is Barcelona doing in terms of sustainability?

Barcelona has strong social capital and does well in this dimension of sustainability. However, its environmental and economic resilience still have a long way to go to be considered as a global leader in sustainability.

In 2016, Arcadis Sustainable Cities index ranked 100 global cities on three dimensions of sustainability: people, planet and profit. Barcelona was given 24th position in the overall ranking. The three pillars represent social, environmental and economic sustainability and offer an indicative picture of the health and wealth of cities.

Barcelona ranked high (13th) on the people sub-index which measures social performance and aspects such as life expectancy, education, crime and living costs.

However, the city’s ranking on the planet sub-index that captures ‘green’ factors like energy, pollution and emissions was lower – 23rd.

Finally, the profit sub-index that assesses the business environment and economic health of the city left Barcelona on an even lower, 43rd position. The profit sub-index considers aspects such as transport infrastructure, ease of doing business, tourism and employment.

Even though Barcelona’s travel and tourism infrastructures are well developed, high rates of unemployment and inflexible economic development policies keep the city’s overall evaluation in the profit sub-index low (note: this is the first year that Barcelona was included in the study, so a yearly evolution cannot be shown).

Barcelona reputation and image

Is Barcelona’s reputation helping it attract new businesses and talent?

City RepTrak is a global survey which ranks the world’s most reputable cities based on levels of trust, esteem, admiration and respect. In the 2017 edition Barcelona ranked 8th among the 56 most reputable cities. The survey is based on consumer ratings that are grouped into three dimensions: advanced economy, effective government and appealing environment. The best performing cities are those that show excellent ratings in each dimension.

One of the general outcomes of the study is that being a beautiful and safe city that has well-respected leaders is what drives a city’s good prominence. Barcelona has so far ticked each of these criteria. However, the current political instability might become costly for the city in terms of reputation. The city’s ranking has already dropped two positions since 2015.

Barcelona also performed well on the Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands index which evaluates the power and appeal of each city’s image. The study gives a holistic and detailed perspective based on six key dimensions: presence, place, pre-requisites, people, pulse and potential. Barcelona was positioned 12th-13th overall, but ranked especially well (4th-5th, sharing the ranking with Vienna) for the ‘place’ dimension which takes into account the city’s physical outdoors and transport.

How attractive for digital nomads?

Similar to the city’s mediocre performance in terms of environment, the Digital Nomad Index only ranks the city 53rd (out of 56 cities) in terms of offering green space and parks. Interestingly, the Barcelona finds itself on a 3rd position overall, with a strong position in four of the top ten categories. All of these four categories are somehow related to digital life; Internet speed, quality of co-working spaces, cafés with free WiFi and startup score. The Nomad List in particular praises Barcelona’s high-speed Internet. Furthermore, the city offers a great nightlife, warm summers and is considered very walkable.

Barcelona’s position as a city for digital nomads is arguably better than the country’s performance in general. The Digital Life Abroad report considers Spain’s digital life as mediocre.

Innovation and global influence of Barcelona

Can Barcelona be considered a research and innovation hub for international companies?

Barcelona has had a steep fall in the latest Innovation Cities (2018) edition. This index ranks 500 cities and is built upon 162 indicators, grouped into 31 segments that go from business to fashion and public safety. In 2018, Barcelona ranks 30th for its performance as an innovation hub. This is seventeen positions lower than last year but still makes it Europe’s 7th best-ranking city.

Barcelona’s ranking in the 2017 edition of AT Kearney’s Global Cities index was 24th.  This index studies aspects such as the strength of an urban center’s network of businesses, the talent of its citizenry, the stability of political institutions, and the creativity of cultural organizations.

Similarly, the Global Power City index 2017 edition studied 44 cities and showed that Barcelona has good conditions of housing (6th) and cultural interaction (12th). However, it could be doing better in terms of environment (23rd), research (32nd) and especially in economic competitiveness (39th).

The Global Power City index aims to give a comprehensive picture of cities with global power, basing its evaluations on these six main functions that represent city strength: economy, research and development, cultural Interaction, livability, environment, and accessibility.

Barcelona had slowly been improving its overall position up to position 20 in the 2016 edition of this index, but in 2017 the city’s ranking dropped four positions. While the penultimate study positioned Barcelona among the 5 most livable cities thanks to its good working environment, cost of living, security and well-being, it has now also dropped out of this top 5, probably because of the rapid increase of housing prices.

Barcelona’s creativity and culture

Does Barcelona have a lot of cultural opportunities?

Barcelona’s strongest aspects in the 2017 Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor are its enabling environment (4th) and cultural vibrancy, where it ranks 5th among Europe’s biggest cities.

Barcelona’s overall Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor score is 33.2 points, 4.6 points higher than Madrid, which the Catalan capital outperforms with its cultural vibrancy and enabling environment.  The study gives Barcelona top scores for the high ranking of its universities.

Barcelona also outperforms the overall leader of the ranking, Paris, in the integration of foreigners and people trust.

Barcelona place equity

Resonance Consultancy’s 2018 World’s Best Cities ranking puts Barcelona on a very high 8th position, which is three positions above Madrid’s ranking. The Catalan capital scored high for place (2nd ), promotion (7th) and programming (8th); nevertheless, there is a huge gap between these high-ranking pillars and the city’s prosperity, which leaves Barcelona on position 124.

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Last updated September 2019

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