MORE THAN 82 MILLION TOURISTS IN 2018

Spain 2019 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Isabel Oliver, Secretary of State for Tourism & President of Turespaña, on record-breaking tourism in Spain, luxury hotels in Madrid, and Latin American markets.

With more than 82 million tourists, Spain broke its own record in 2018. What are the main challenges that this organization has gone through?

The results are excellent. 2018 was a very good year, and we see that some of our competitors have started to recover in 2019, so we have to continue working to consolidate our sustained growth. Some of the challenges we face are to reinitiate the conversations between town halls, autonomous communities, and the central government to coordinate all the efforts from the public sector. We have held several meetings to materialize these efforts. We restarted the National Tourism Council after years of no activity; it is an entity that assesses the Tourism Ministry with representatives from both the private and public sectors. We have appointed some new members to create a new vision for this council. We have also held a meeting for Turespaña's management board, which also had not met in several years, and included the private sector into it. And within the Secretariat of State, we have held several meetings to address challenges and find solutions that the industry faces.

The marketing strategic plan for 2018-19 has the goal of reaching high-quality tourists. What are the measures included in the plan?

The plan is still being developed. We are launching some campaigns to boost tourism online. We want to consolidate Spain's traditional markets such as the UK, Germany, and France, and also seek tourists from markets who have not traditionally come to Spain. These are high-end consumers who are more interested in culture and traditions and tend not to travel in the high season. We also seek these tourists in emerging markets, as well as in Asia Pacific countries and the US. All tourists are welcome in Spain, but we want to use our well-known brand in the markets in which we are already known, while we focus on these new markets.

Luxury tourism in Madrid has been somewhat behind other European cities. What are you doing to attract these tourists?

We think that the most important thing is to have a strong product and promote it, and at present, we are working on different products. In the shopping tourism segment, Spain is ranked fourth just behind France, the UK, and Italy, and Spain still has a lot of space in this area to continue growing. This is a kind of tourist who has a high net worth and is complementary to other segments, because they might be interested in culture, culinary experiences, or visiting. They might come to watch a La Liga game, and then go to a wine cellar. We think this is an interesting product for Asia Pacific and one thing we are trying to do is make visa requirements easier.

Spain received more than 5 million business tourists in 2018. What measures are you planning to implement to boost MICE tourism?

In Turespaña, we have a specific group working jointly to boost this area. In Madrid and Barcelona, we have two important cities for this kind of tourism, but we also want to promote other areas. We are planning to develop a study for the public and private sectors to see what needs to be done in order to improve our strategies in this area.

What makes Spain attractive for MICE tourism?

It is a country with good infrastructure and facilities. Spain also has good connections with Europe and the rest of the world. The country has good professionals in this sector, as well as good landscapes and gastronomy. Having these ingredients, we can just improve further. We are in a phase of working cautiously to enhance this segment as it has immense potential.

What markets are particularly interesting for Spain within Latin America?

We have few tourists from Latin America, but those who visit us have a strong purchasing power. Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela are some of those markets.

What's the future of Paradores?

We think that Paradores are going to continue being government-owned. In 2018 the company made EUR15 million in profits, and it has improved the working conditions for its employees. We think it is well positioned and we are going to seek these new clients who do not know Paradores so that they can enjoy the experience we offer. We are using Paradores to demonstrate the varied gastronomy of Spain. We want to improve our facilities and open two new Paradores in 2019. This is a network that could be also interesting for MICE tourists, like the Paradores in Alcala de Henares or La Granja de San Ildefonso that offer business facilities.

What are your priorities the year ahead?

We have started to work on the tourism strategy 2030. We do not have a long-term plan because the latter expired in 2015 and we need a new plan to establish certain goals. We want to focus on five areas: collaborative governance, sustainable growth, competitive transformation, product, and tourism intelligence, which are concepts that have to be incorporated in the entire strategy. Of course, this strategy is being coordinated with the sustainable development goals that impregnate the whole mandate.