Contemporary Architecture

The Bilbao Effect – The economic and social impact of a Museum

What is Bilbao Effect?

  • žThe transformation of the decaying small Spanish town by a new museum or cultural facility into a vibrant and attractive place for residents, visitors and inward investment.
  • žMajor credit to the famous Guggenheim museum designed by Frank O Gehry


  • A highly congested river port
  • Purely industrial city (grey)- iron and steel industry, shipbuilding, chemical factories
  • Bilbao was in the grip of an economic recession and identity crisis because heavy industry was in precipitous decline


  • It was de-industrialisation that stimulated the Bilbao and the Basque governments was a plan to create a major international cultural initiative to revive the city and put it on the map in a period of European integration.
  • Rise in service companies, tourism, high technology and dissemination of information and knowledge
  • Construction of new buildings
1998 (October 1997 inauguration of the Guggenheim) 1,500,000 visitors, surpassing anticipated numbers.
Change of image for Bilbao:   Modern city
  • Driving force for consolidating the tourism   industry in Basque country
  • Improved quality of life for  residents in terms of  leisure activities
  • Stimulator for inbound tourism and   commercial activity
  • Venue for congresses, seminars, courses, etc.
  • Generator of international prestige for the  Basque country
  • International cultural tourism
Economic stats:
  • In its first 12 months, 79% of visitors to the Guggenheim came to Bilbao exclusively to see the museum.
  • These visitors spent € 186 million, an average of € 168 per visitor.
  • Income of sectors benefiting most from the Guggenheim in the first 9 months:
    • Over € 63 million on hotels and restaurants
    • Over € 48 million in shops and businesses
    • Over € 39 million on accommodation companies
    • Over € 22 million on the museum itself (tickets, purchases,…)
    • Over € 10 million on transport (petrol, tolls…)


  • žECONOMIC EFFECT: main reason for attracting and developing tourism in the area
  • žTOURISTS: tourist spending represents profits for business owners, jobs for residents and revenue via taxes (self-financing).


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6 thoughts on “The Bilbao Effect – The economic and social impact of a Museum”

  1. I have a problem with the overall premise of your article but I still think its really informative. I really like your other posts. Keep up the great work. If you can add more video and pictures can be much better. Because they help much clear understanding. 🙂 thanks Warhol.


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