Innovacció 2030
Open call: Sustainable tourism in Eixample

In recent years Barcelona has seen a dramatic increase in the number of visitors and tourists coming to the city, making it one of the most visited cities on the planet. Tourism is one of the city’s main economic sectors, generating more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs, and is the fourth largest wealth-creating economic activity in the city. At the same time, this growth in tourism has become one of Barcelona’s most prominent challenges and one of the main concerns of the city’s citizens.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has had a strong impact on the tourism economy, particularly impacting neighbourhoods such as Eixample and Ciutat Vella, which account for a large part of the city’s tourists and visitors.

Therefore, the Covid-19 crisis presents a good opportunity to design future economic policies that will promote more sustainable tourism, aligned with the commitments of Agenda 2030, Barcelona’s 2020 Strategic Tourism Plan, and the United Nation’s (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, technology and digitalisation are tools that can play a fundamental role in tackling society’s social and environmental challenges. Therefore, technology can help turn tourism into an agent of change to promote more sustainable lifestyles, patterns of consumption and production models.

The Eixample district is one of the areas of the city that sees the greatest influx of tourism as it is home to some of the city’s most iconic tourist attractions such as the Sagrada Família and La Pedrera as well as emblematic thoroughfares such as Passeig de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya. This means Eixample is an ideal district for testing new tools and innovative solutions that will promote more sustainable tourism and help overcome the challenges that have arisen from it thus far. With this in mind, the Eixample district has identified three relevant themes to base innovative projects around.
These themes are (1) data and mobility, (2) managing the district’s heritage and promoting economic opportunities and (3) smart communication.


Managing the movements and flows of pedestrians is one of the great challenges for any tourist city. Efficient management of this is essential for avoiding problems in the public space and promoting positive cohabitation with local citizens. To address this challenge in Eixample and promote a respectful environment in the neighbourhood while also encouraging tourism in other areas of the city, it is important to have tools that help monitor the movements and flows of pedestrians through improved data collection. Therefore, the district would like to improve the quantity and quality of data and information it collects on the movement of tourists and visitors, as well as implement tools that will help analyse and understand the data and/or make predictions on visitor mobility in specific areas of the district.
The Eixample district is home to a large part of Barcelona’s architectural and cultural heritage, as well as countless restaurants and shops, with many being historic landmarks. On many occasions, however, tourism activity concentrates around the most iconic locations, such as the Sagrada Família or the Casa Batlló, while other assets are much less popular. In this sense, Eixample has the challenge of promoting the total offering of the district’s heritage to help diversify tourist activity and generate a positive impact across different economic areas in a way that is favourable to the district’s local commerce and restaurants. In this regard, the district needs to have digital tools that encourage sustainable heritage management, promote the diversity and protection of the area and maximise the economic impact on local commerce to foster the greatest possible social return from tourism activity. All while focusing above all else on the elements that guarantee the redistribution of wealth.
To improve communication with tourists at both origin and destination, Barcelona aims to adapt its communication strategy and instruments to the new challenges posed. Visitor communication aims to give tourists the chance to understand the destination beyond its tourist attractions. Good communication with visitors guarantees them a better experience, helping to promote the city’s heritage and wide diversity of services and establishments. Thus, the challenge for the Eixample district is to outline and automate communication with the multitude of tourists who visit the city that promotes its heritage as well as the broad commercial and gastronomic wealth it holds, therefore, improving the visitor experience. In this sense, it is very important to have technological and/or digital tools that will improve communication through visitor profiling, geolocation-based communication, or the coordination of tourist information between different agents (visitors, civic agents, tourist information offices, private agents, etc.).

The challenge

Following sustained growth over 20 years, in 2019 Barcelona received 12 million visitors. The tourism sector is one of Barcelona’s most important economic sectors, generating more than 8.6% of the city’s employment and accounting for more than 7% of GDP.

Looking at the territorial characteristics of the city, Barcelona is a small city geographically speaking covering an area of 101 km2 but has a high population density (15,887 inhabitants per km2) compared to other European cities.

In addition to these territorial characteristics, it is essential to bear in mind that tourism tends to concentrate on certain geographical points. Both tourism supply and demand tend to be unevenly distributed throughout the city, with some neighbourhoods and areas seeing much more intense levels of tourism activities than others and Eixample is one of the areas with the highest rates of tourism intensity. The Eixample concentrates the largest supply of accommodation in the city. In 2019 Eixample had 21,505 hotel beds and 29,754 bed places in tourist accommodation, in both cases more than in the Ciutat Vella district. Furthermore, Eixample is home to the iconic Sagrada Família, with its 4.5 million ticketed visitors a year, and two of the other main points of visitor interest in the city, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, each with 1 million annual visitors in 2019.

The impact of Covid-19 on the city’s tourism sector, however, has been very significant with a huge reduction in the number of visitors (down to 2.1 million in 2020) and the partial or total closure of many of the city’s tourism activities and services. However, forecasts indicate that the sector will recover 60% of its pre-Covid-19 activity by 2022 and will be fully recovered by 2023.

In this sense, the pandemic should be understood as a moment for promoting a tourism sector that has a greater focus on quality and sustainability and offers more personalised attention using technology and data.

Furthermore, promoting sustainable tourism aligns with the SDGs; specifically with SDG 10, regarding the reduction of inequalities, SDG 11, aimed at sustainable cities and communities and SDG 12, aimed at responsible production and consumption.
This call seeks to identify innovative technology-based pilot projects that aim to promote sustainable tourism in the Eixample district of Barcelona in one of the 3 areas mentioned:
1) Data and Mobility
2) Managing the district´s heritage and promoting economic opportunities
3) Smart communication.

Solutions must have a technological development level equal to or higher than Technology Readiness Level 6 (TRL6) and implementation must be technically feasible within 12 months. Solutions that require little infrastructure and/or are affordable and have the potential to scale to other areas of the city will be considered positively.

The prize money going to the winning solution will be used to support the implementation of the pilot project in the Eixample district of the city of Barcelona.
To give some examples, solutions may focus, among others, on tools for counting and/or predicting visitor movements and flows, gamification and the promotion of the district’s diverse cultural heritage through technologies such as augmented reality, communication by segmentation and/or geolocation through Beacon technologies, or the detection of tourist behaviour patterns.

In addition, the Eixample district seeks to identify pilot projects that will help achieve some of the cross-cutting objectives set out in the 2020 strategic tourism plan for the city of Barcelona, such as:
• Redistributing the returns from tourism activity to favour greater social benefits
• Strengthening the link between tourism and the city’s strategic economic sectors
• Promoting local commerce and gastronomy
• Improving the coherence between tourist and citizen uses of public spaces
• Extending the Biosphere Tourism Sustainability Commitment to tourism companies and services in the sector.

Meet the semi-finalists


Key dates

How to participate


Any legal entity can submit a proposal without geographic or size restrictions of the requesting entity.
The call is aimed at solutions with a degree of technological maturity greater than or equal to TRL6. The solutions must be ready to be tested in a real environment and must provide concrete and measurable results.
Yes, the proposals can be written in English, Catalan or Spanish.
The winning proposal will receive financial support of up to € 40,000. However, the applicant organization must contribute at least 20% of the total project budget. Financial support will only be available for those activities and aspects directly related to the implementation of the pilot and no personal, travel or dietary expenses may be included.
The evaluation process consists of three phases. The last phase includes a committee of external evaluators that will choose the winning solution. You can find more details in the terms and conditions of the call.
You can send an email to [email protected]. We will reply to you as soon as possible.