Barcelona is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centers, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s design capital. It is a major cultural and economic center in Southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial center. In 2008 it was the fourth most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with GDP amounting to €177 billion. In 2012 Barcelona had a GDP of $170 billion; it is leading Spain in both employment rate and GDP per capita change. In 2009 the city was ranked Europe’s third and one of the world’s most successful as a city brand. In the same year the city was ranked Europe’s fourth best city for business and fastest improving European city, with growth improved by 17% per year,  but it has since been in a full recession with declines in both employment and GDP per capita, with some recent signs of the beginning of an economic recovery.  Since 2011 Barcelona is a leading smart city in Europe. Barcelona is a transport hub with its commercial port being one of Europe’s largest  and busiest European passenger port,  an international airport, Barcelona–El Prat, with over 35 million passengers transiting per year,  an extensive motorway network and a high-speed rail line with a link to France and the rest of Europe.

Economically and in all other matters,  Barcelona is influenced by the stream of millions of people visiting every year. However, it can be argued, that there are  downsides  to this apparent economic  strength influences the area in a way, that it loses its unique identity.

As a consequence, the rising costs of living and real-estate/ rent  + internationalisation/globalisation ? gentrification; local residents can no longer afford to live in the central areas, which are  loosing of their authentic culture / cultural identity in the most touristic locations. They become touristic, instead of authentic.

Barcelona has many features typical of the north-west European city. It has a large tertiary sector, its traditional manufacturing industries have been declining, and multinational investment has become increasingly important. The rapid development of Technical Parks for high-tech industry is a modern feature associated with the growth of what is becoming known as the European ‘sun-rise’ belt, along the Mediterranean coast between Valencia and Northern Italy. Barcelona suffers from serious traffic congestion and has the unenviable reputation as being the second noisiest city in Europe.

Cultural preservation is  essential for economics success, but it is used as a resource for profit which converts it into a static representation of past achievements – the city becomes an urban scale museum lacking innovation and generation of novel assets. An extreme example of this is may be the degeneration of Venice from a living center of culture and commerce, to a mere tourist destination “amusement park” where the population of local residents and authentic culture (not related to the tourist industry), has fallen dramatically. Barcelona has not reached such an extreme point, but there are already signs of such a development – the global popularity of culture weakens its own authenticity.

One consequence of this type of cultural commercialization is a backlash, both among local residents and political agenda. These can only be observed on various scales, ranging from individual protests,  movements among citizens to political representatives and entire parties thematizing the issue. The loss of unique cultural values as a consequence of mass tourism, has been associated with Catalonia`s political bid for independence from Spain.  Considering, that  the tourist industry is one of Barcelona`s major sources of income, a cultural-economic seems evident here.  The emblematic image of Barcelona often resembles in “shallow and cheap tourism”. The effect is already noticeable with regard to the replacement of small, individual businesses and middle class private housing  by tourist accommodations and retail catering to the desires and demands of visitors. Many of Barcelona historic centers ( casco antiguo – Bario Gothic, Ribera, Born) already seem to have transformed the urban and cultural fabric in favor of a more commercial and globalized model.

Due to these developments urban changes and in order to address the concerns and needs of locals this can be seen a direct consequence of the capitalization on cultural heritage, ultimately compromising the genuine nature of that same culture.

Especially lower and middle class members of the community are affected negatively since they are no longer able to cover the rapidly increasing costs of living in their neighborhoods.

As for an example, the last local underwear shop in Venice closed a decade ago. Since then, residents of this city of islands have had to go to the mainland to make such essential purchases. This is a warning sign.  Any city that sacrifices itself on the altar of mass tourism will be abandoned by its people when they can no longer afford the cost of housing, food, and basic everyday necessities.

We’re starting to see Venice without Venetians. It’s happening here in Barcelona too, a city of 2 million inhabitants that hosted 7.5 million tourists last year. The city council, run by the Catalan right, has said that it wants to increase this to 10 million visitors per year.

Of course, the answer is not to attack tourism. Everyone is a tourist at some point in their life. Rather, we have to regulate the sector, return to the traditions of local urban planning, and put the rights of residents before those of big business.

In the last twenty years, two major events, the 1992 Olympic Games and the Universal Forum of Cultures 2004 have enabled the city to undergo a transformation more radical than perhaps any other city in western Europe.

Changes have been most dramatic in the medieval city, where the striking Contemporary Arts Museum has helped transform one of the city’s most rundown districts, El Raval. Gentrification has seen the arrival of many trendy bars and restaurants in the vicinity of the museum, but elsewhere sizeable immigrant communities have taken over apartments no longer wanted by Spaniards.

The potentials of modern means of transportation (global, convenient and often very affordable) and communication (mass media/ social media/ marketing) paired with a strong and attractive cultural identity creates a tourist industry which can diminish the culture upon which its success is based. Economic “overdevelopment” can be culturally and demographically unsustainable and may eventually lead to a loss/transformation of cultural identity. The city becomes a commercialised museum; a lifeless, stagnant and falsified (simplified, idealised, distorted) display of past achievements within which there seems to be no economic incentive for innovation or redefinition / regeneration.