Will Barcelona Lose the Mobile World Congress (ex-3GSM)?

I read, via Carlos Blanco, that Barcelona is very close to losing its status as host to the Mobile World Congress (for old-timers, the old 3GSM conference).

Apparently, the organizers are wanting to leave Barcelona because of:

  • Price gouging on the part of hotels during the conference. For example, I know a 3-star hotel up the road that normally costs 150 euros/night, which during the conference was trying to get away with charging 2000 euros/night (yes, three zeros!).
  • Lack of transportation, particularly taxis. This I simply can’t understand. Taxi drivers complain they’re underpaid, then when an amazing opportunity like MWC comes along they don’t show up to get the additional work.
  • High volume of theft against participants. This is where Barcelona’s ongoing, ever-present problem with street crime come back to haunt it.

I think it would be tragic for the city to lose such a major, prestigious event. Everyone would lose: hotels, taxis, restaurants, the city government, local startups, barcelona’s reach and influence…

It’s almost like there’s a common complacency about Barcelona’s status/brand that everyone is just milking and abusing…until that inevitable day when the brand becomes so damaged that people simply leave for alternatives.

13 responses to “Will Barcelona Lose the Mobile World Congress (ex-3GSM)?

  1. Sounds like the real estate event MIPIM (www.mipim.com) in Cannes…

    Extremly expensive (a beer for 10 euro!), people have to stay in hotels in Nice (1 hour away) and almost impossible to get hold of a cab (not to mention one who knows the way to your address).

    Actually, before the move to Barcelona, ex-3GSM was hosted here…

  2. Hi Magnus,

    I know, it’s terrible how much they try to exploit these events. Someday, I can imagine MIPIM will also leave Cannes for a more hospitable, affordable city.

    If you’re the mayor of a tier-2 city, these are golden opportunities to steal big events from cities that are just coasting on past success…

  3. What a shame if attendees must miss fabulous Barcelona. My husband, Bob Arno, and I visit often. It’s one of our favorite cities for dining, atmosphere, and… thiefhunting. And I must admit, while we hunt thieves in cities around the world, Barcelona is our best laboratory. Kharem, the thief I wrote about at http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters/2008/02/moving-target/, operates in Barcelona.

    Some countries, tourism boards, and companies take a pro-active stance in fighting tourist-related crime in an aggressive manner: warning people, taking care of victims, and prosecuting. Others sweep it under the carpet and try to suppress it. Negative publicity has a devastating effect on tourism: look at Kenya, Aruba, and South Africa, three dream destinations whose reputations have been pretty ruined.

    Eight or so years ago, we worked on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, on which we entertained with a comedy pickpocket show, and also lectured passengers on how to avoid street theft. We gave examples and showed our own video of crime in action. The hotel director on the ship, who lived in Barcelona, was offended that we showed actual examples from his city, which he claimed was one of the safest in the world! Later, we were told outright that the cruise line would prefer to keep their passengers ignorant of the dangers of the ship’s ports of call.

  4. Sorry, that link is http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters/2008/02/moving-target/
    (a comma got tangled up in it, above.)

  5. Hi Bambi,

    Thanks for the comment- I actually know your blog via Terry Jones! Love your work, fascinating stuff. You guys absolutely have to drop by next time you’re in town.


  6. sinblancaporelmundo,

    Hombre, no se….tema interessante tu enlace. Lo voy a leer mas tarde, con calma.

  7. Despertaferro

    Hi man;

    Where did that info officially appeared? Who is interested that to happen? What fair in Spain lost exhibitors in fron of MWC this year? What city in Barcelona sistematically copies every fair in Barcelona that succeeds since last 20 years (i.e. Salon Internacional de la Logistica, Informat, Salon del Automovil, Barcelona Meeting Point, Salon Nautico, …).
    Can you imagine Nautical Fair celebrated in a city placed 400Km inland?
    Repeat a lie a thousand times and will probably became true.
    I’ve been in trade shows in London, Hanover, Munich, Taipei, Madrid and lot of places. Hotels everywhere try to make their day during these “happenings”

    Regards from Barcelona

  8. Pingback: Thiefhunters in Paradise » Barcelona street crime

  9. Ariel

    I think like in every city, all these trade events are there for hoteliers to make the most of their Yield Management as they have to fill hotels with cheap rates during the rest of the year.

    But worst of all are some hoteliers in London, where on the 7/7/2005 overcharged britons who got stranded as rail communications got blocked that day. That IS appalling.


    On the other hand, a bike shop sold bikes cheaper after that (with some 20% dscount) as it didn’t want to benefit (as much) from the aftermath of what happened. I can’t find thequote on that one, so you’ll have to believe me.

    Sorry for the disgression :-)

  10. Aine

    Well, we’re signed up again for 2009.

    It’s a rip off, but then where isn’t? I’ve been involved with my Cisco hat on, but also because I know a lot of journos and PR bods who come out every year and no one seems to complain about the prices.

    Bar the hotels, there are outfits like oh-barcelona.com out there, doing good (and fair) business.

    I think it’s hard to find a European city that offers what Barna does, even with the price hike.

    Cisco held Networkers here last year, and it was a massive hit.

  11. Kerry

    Price gauging during major citywide conventions is a time honored tradition in every city. However, that much of an increase sounds rather suspicious to me, sounds like hearsay. Europe is a bit screwed up on how it charges for guestrooms however, most Euro hotels do not have a sales team, everything is done through regular reservations led by a revenue director. They are a breed who only see money signs and not repeat clientel. I could see a hotel selling its last presidential suite at that price during a citywide, although usually those rooms go to VIP there for the convention at the negotiated group rate. Either Barcelona needs sales teams or they are truly not competitive.

  12. Pingback: Thiefhunters in Paradise » Windows Mobile 6.5 demo phone stolen at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

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