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Barcelona retains sustainable tourism award

Biosphere World Class Destination certificate recognizes Catalonia’s capital amidst concerns that tourism is reaching tipping point


08 January 2018 01:06 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Barcelona retained in 2017 the Biosphere World Class Destination certificate, the city council announced on Sunday. The award, based on standards approved at international conferences sponsored by UNESCO and with the support of the Spanish government, recognizes municipalities which “work in order to make tourism an environmentally and socially sustainable activity”, reads Barcelona’s press release.

Catalonia’s capital became the first city to receive the award in 2011. The main reasons why Barcelona kept the title, as reads the statement, are the accessibility improvements in its beaches, the city’s commitment to the action plan for Sustainable Energy and Climate, and the strategy to decentralize tourism, among others.

The recognition comes amidst growing concerns on the impact that the tourism industry might have in the city and on the lives of local people. This past summer, tourism became Barcelona’s highest ranked problem according to residents. In 2017, more than 30 million visitors were expected to come to the city, according to the city council.

According to the Biosphere Destination Tourism website, Barcelona is amongst the 16 certified members of the Biosphere Destination Community—all of which are located in Spain, except one.

The certification is granted by the Responsible Tourism Institute, an organization whose stated purpose is the implementation of actions and programs of sustainable development in the tourism sector. It was founded in 1995 following the World Conference on Sustainable Tourism, sponsored by UNESCO.

According to the organization’s website, the Biosphere certification was the first to be approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council worldwide, and is the only one to incorporate the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the main guidelines of the Paris Climate Summit.


  • Citizens and tourists in Plaça Catalunya, in Barcelona (by Josep Ramon Torné)

  • Citizens and tourists in Plaça Catalunya, in Barcelona (by Josep Ramon Torné)