by Michael J. Shapiro | August 01, 2012

W Barcelona3. Barcelona, Spain Barcelona remains a vibrant bright spot amidst Spain's otherwise faltering economy. Not only did it remain among ICCA's top three cities for 2011, with 150 applicable events, but its meetings market continues to expand overall. The number of professional meetings held in 2011, according to the Barcelona Convention Bureau, grew by 6.8 percent over 2010, to 2,283. The nearly 647,693 attendees of those events represented a 5 percent hike over the previous year.

The city appears to hold special allure for international delegates, which made up 80 percent of those tallied. And international hotel companies are certainly taking notice: Global giants Starwood and Marriott are among those touting recently opened properties, with the 2010 opening of the 473-room W Barcelona and this April's debut of the 211-room Renaissance Barcelona, respectively. The latter, just off the Passeig de Grácia shopping thoroughfare, offers seven meeting rooms. The W, for its part, has become a local landmark with its distinctive sail design towering over the Port of Barcelona. The striking property also offers more than 22,600 square feet of meeting and event space.

Other international newcomers include the 92-room K+K Hotel Picasso, Barcelona, which debuted in July in the trendy El Born neighborhood. The stylish property has two conference rooms, which together can hold up to 50 people.

The 264-room Novotel Barcelona City recently opened on Avenida Diagonal, a main thoroughfare, near the Agbar Tower; More than 6,200 square feet of meeting space is offered. And the 241-room Pullman Barcelona Skipper, another relative newcomer, is close to the beach in Port Olimpic. It offers nine meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 800 people in total.

A local company, Hoteles Catalonia, will debut the Hotel Catalonia Fira this month, across from the trade fair area in Plaça Europa. The unique design consists of two 360-foot towers, connected about halfway up by a restaurant with panoramic views. A unique outdoor garden covers the building's exterior. The property has 357 rooms and a convention center that can accommodate as many as 1,000 attendees.

Another unique venue, the Sunborn floating luxury hotel, is set to open in early 2013. The 460-foot super yacht will have 180 guest rooms, a pool and terrace, bars, restaurants, a spa and a gym. It will offer more than 7,200 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom spanning 4,600 square feet. The yacht is moored in the Port Forum Marina, which is within walking distance of the Barcelona International Convention Centre.

La Cúpula de Las Arenas is yet an­other unique event space — in the form of a spectacular dome, with nearly 28,000 square feet of space and ceilings 82 feet high. Formerly the Plaza de Las Arenas bull-fighting ring, the 1900 landmark was completely refurbished and turned into a retail and restaurant commercial area, with the domed Cúpula as the centerpiece on top. A wraparound balcony provides spectacular views of the city, while the interior already has been used for concerts, fashion shows, conferences and other private events.