The Japanese were the first to consider Catalonia their premier touristic destination. In the 1980’s, the citizens of ‘the Country of the Rising Sun’ were the pioneer visitors in what has become a flow of tourists to Barcelona. Francisco de Paula Carolina, the architect formerly in charge of the construction process of Sagrada Familia, was the first to comment on this curious tendency. Many people attribute the growing numbers of Japanese tourists to the opening of the Consulate of Japan in the Catalonian capital in 1987.
Today, Japanese tourists still stand out among the more than 300,000 people visiting Barcelona. Local residents remark that Japanese tourists tend to treat the local culture with a special respect—they gaze in awe at the Catalonian architecture and culture, so strikingly different and foreign to their own. For these reasons and others, these visitors are ideal clients for tourist agencies. “Japanese tourists spend more money than anyone else. Plus, they are extremely interested in culture,” Javier Espasa, representative of a tourism agency in Catalonia, comments.
The relations between the two countries are not limited to tourism. Today, an estimated 350 Japanese organizations are present in Catalonia. Japan is also regarded as the most predictable market in that Japanese companies tend to appreciate stability and confidence. Therefore, the market growth in this sector constitutes 2-3% every year.