Meet in Barcelona

The Cata­lan cap­i­tal’s sense of fun and iconic sights make for ex­cit­ing in­cen­tives

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Margie T. Log­a­rta

The Cata­lan cap­i­tal’s sense of fun and iconic sights make for ex­cit­ing in­cen­tives

There is some­thing about ar­riv­ing in Barcelona that im­me­di­ately puts you at ease. Whether it’s the sight of the Mediter­ranean lap­ping at the sweep of the Olympic Har­bor, the lush parks and gar­dens glimpsed from the trundling air­port bus, the ram­bunc­tious ac­tiv­i­ties along La Ram­bla or merely the wide smile of a ho­tel re­cep­tion­ist wel­com­ing a stranger, the city feels like a lot of fun.

Like many Euro­pean hubs, Barcelona boasts a rich her­itage. Es­tab­lished as a Ro­man out­post more than 2,000 years ago, and later be­com­ing an im­por­tant ad­di­tion to the King­dom of Aragon, the coastal en­clave has re­mained a trav­el­ers’ must see for its high cul­ture, quirky ar­chi­tec­ture and laid-back ethos.

Through the years, Barcelona seems to have had a knack for rein­ven­tion and rais­ing its pro­file. In 1888, it was the site of Spain’s first in­ter­na­tional trade fair, La Ex­posi­ción Uni­ver­sal de Barcelona, fol­lowed in 1929 by the Barcelona In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tion. Then, just when the city needed a com­pelling rea­son to re­ju­ve­nate what had be­come a pre­dictable sky­line, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee awarded it the 1992 Sum­mer Olympic Games.

Since then, it has swiftly added to its arse­nal of at­trac­tions, a num­ber of which pro­vide im­pres­sive set­tings for all types of busi­ness events. The Fo­rum Zone, opened in 2004 in the new Di­ag­o­nal area, boasts some of the largest con­ven­tion fa­cil­i­ties and ho­tels in Europe. Me­dieval and late 19th-cen­tury struc­tures have been spruced up and con­verted into chic post-con­fer­ence op­tions, while deluxe ho­tel chains such as Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Le Méri­dien, Ritz-Carl­ton and W have set up shop in prom­i­nent lo­ca­tions.

While An­toni Gaudi’s beloved Sagrada Fa­milia church re­mains Barcelona’s fore­most land­mark, other imag­i­na­tive ed­i­fices are start­ing to share the stage. Th­ese in­clude Jean Nou­vel’s iri­des­cent Torre Ag­bar, head­quar­ters of the lo­cal wa­ter com­pany, and En­ric Mas­sip-Bosch’s tri­an­gu­lar Torre Di­ag­o­nal Zero Zero, seat of com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Tele­fónica.

Mercedes Gar­cia, mar­ket­ing man­ager for the Barcelona Con­ven­tion Bureau, says her city’s trans­for­ma­tion over the past two decades re­flects “a dy­namic and pi­o­neer­ing spirit as well as the drive and ca­pac­ity for in­no­va­tion of a young so­ci­ety.”

“We’ve been ranked one of the top five meet­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world since 2001, and even reached first po­si­tion in the past,” she adds. “We’ll keep pro­mot­ing Barcelona as a meet­ing and in­cen­tive desti­na­tion to main­tain that good rep­u­ta­tion in the years to come.”

The cli­mate and va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties have also con­trib­uted a great deal to Barcelona’s pop­u­lar­ity with the events com­mu­nity. Cristina de Seras, di­rec­tor of Barcelona Busi­ness Pass, a con­fer­ence or­ga­ni­za­tion and desti­na­tion man­age­ment com­pany, ob­serves that the weather is“mostly nice through­out

the year, ”al­though she rec­om­mends mak­ing a plan B for al fresco af­fairs in case of un­ex­pected rain.

Desti­na­tion man­age­ment com­pa­nies (DMCs) of­ten try to in­ject an Ibe­rian fla­vor into team­build­ing ex­er­cises and group ex­pe­ri­ences. De Seras de­scribes one ac­tiv­ity in which par­tic­i­pants learn how to play var­i­ous in­stru­ments to­gether (clas­si­cal gui­tar, ca­jon drum, palil­los rhythm sticks and pal­mas hand clap­ping) for a Fla­menco per­for­mance, then put on a show with the help of a pro­fes­sional singer.

Another task is form­ing a castell (hu­man tower) – a uniquely Cata­lan feat that is staged dur­ing town fes­ti­vals and pro­vides fierce com­pe­ti­tion among the castellers seek­ing to build the tallest col­umn. For the food­ies, there are paella and san­gria-mak­ing lessons, and art lovers can re­ceive guid­ance in fash­ion­ing pot­tery from renowned ce­ramist Jordi Serra.

Then there is FC Barcelona, the wildly pop­u­lar foot­ball club and one of Spain’s best­known ex­ports. The DMCs of­fer vis­it­ing clients a chance to see where the play­ers spend the match sea­son – Camp Nou sta­dium. Another sport­ing event that has put Barcelona on the map is the F1 Grand Prix held in May, and it can be ar­ranged for at­ten­dees to en­joy a heart-pump­ing drive around the For­mula 1 cir­cuit at Gra­nollers. He­li­copter trans­fers can be staged be­tween the city and the town.

So much to do in Barcelona – but how to squeeze it all into a few days’visit? What a won­der­ful dilemma.

Top left to right: Foun­tains, Torre Ag­bar, Sagrada Fa­milia, Fes­ti­val City

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