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Barcelona's image around the world: a multifaceted view of the challenges

Barcelona's image around the world: a multifaceted view of the challenges

Photograph: Unsplash

Barcelona certainly has the potential to revamp its brand image, but it must make sure that it does more to attract business

'It is urgent to put Barcelona back on the map', says Alejo Ortuño, lawyer at Cuatrecasas and member of the International Council of Barcelona Global. Ortuño is one of the 116 people surveyed in the 2022 Perception Survey, a report aimed at members who work and live outside Barcelona with the aim of offering fundamental insights into key issues such as talent, quality of life and brand.

The image and perception that Barcelona's citizens around the world have of our city is a fundamental variable in promoting the attractive Barcelona for high-impact talent and economic activity that Barcelona Global has as its mission. The professional background of each member of the International Council in major business cities gives us a multifaceted vision and learning lessons to implement in Barcelona.

Barcelona’s positioning is already clear: The city comes sixth in the overall ranking of the best cities in the world 2023, according to the Resonance report, three positions higher than last year. In addition to being rated by entrepreneurs as the 3rd best European city for opening a business, according to the Startup Heatmap Europe, it is also the city in the EU with the fourth largest number of financing rounds, with a total of 207 operations.

The Perception Survey consists of 27 indicators, 20 of which evaluate the extent to which members believe Barcelona Global’s priority objectives are being met. It also has two open-ended questions, two multiple-choice questions, and five Net Promoter Score questions. The 12th Barcelona Global International Council Perception Survey, completed by 116 members, reveals the following:

A question of perceptions

Barcelona has long been well-known for tourism, gastronomy and sport, and for its excellent quality of life. It continues to be seen in this way, but those surveyed said that they would also like to see the Barcelona brand more closely associated with research, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, and the green economy.

Barcelona is 'well-known abroad' (4.69/5) and is seen as a 'culturally attractive' city (4.44/5), with 'high quality of life' (4.41/5). In terms of business, the key term that defines Barcelona is 'potential': Potential to be a 'major business hub' (4.38/5), (its best score since 2015), potential to 'be a magnet for talent' (4.44/5) and, above all, potential to 'revamp its brand and image' (4.53). These perceptions should not go unnoticed: Barcelona is well set to grow, but it must make sure it does what is necessary to make sure it doesn’t fall behind other cities.

What are the challenges for the 'Barcelona brand'?

Barcelona is not seen to be 'closely associated with business,' with bureaucratic barriers impeding the creation of startups and new investments. 63.5% of the International Council claimed that this is one of the biggest challenges, alongside immigration holdups and labor law. 61.5% of the council said that taxation was also a problem.

In fact, some of the projects on which Barcelona Global is working are based on the challenges raised by this survey, with taxation being one example. After more than 5 years of working with the main law firms in Barcelona, Barcelona Global succeeded in having many of its proposals on taxation included in the new Startup Law approved at the end of last year. This law means that talented professionals who wish to come to live and work in Barcelona can do so just as they do in other international cities.

Barcelona is already one of the cities that generates most startups in the world, and some, like Glovo, Wallbox, Factorial and TravelPerk have even achieved the category of unicorn in recent years. This goes a long way to ensuring that Barcelona is known as the ideal city in which to do business.

Barcelona, city of knowledge

The survey reveals the fact that 43% of the members of the International Council would recommend Barcelona as a city to study Master's degrees, while 50% would recommend it for medical treatment.

On a more positive note, political uncertainty no longer generates as many problems as before, only 42% compared to 76% in 2017. The failure of the administration to understand English (47.3%) remains a major challenge to consider, as does the fact that so many citizens of Barcelona decide to move and work abroad, with 76% choosing to pursue their professional career in a more international environment that offers better working conditions.

Looking to the future

This year, Barcelona’s sights are set on some pioneering initiatives that will further its reputation and attract high impact talent and investment. They include the development of the Ciutadella Knowledge Hub, the America's Cup in 2024, and a new Sports Hub in the Olympic ring, all ambitious projects capable of propelling the Barcelona brand to new heights.

There is still a long way to go, but Barcelona is making considerable progress. The city must find its own place among great business cities of the world such as London, Miami, and New York. It should not seek to copy them but devise a strategy that is suited to the needs of the people of Barcelona and those who come to live here.

In short, we all need to work closely together. As Gema Olivar, General Counsel at PWC AG in Zurich and member of the International Council, points out: “A city does not prosper if its citizens only concentrate on their own work and fail to consider the common good. It is everyone's job to ensure that Barcelona remains the great city that it is today.”

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