Spain plans aggressive marketing push in Gulf [Travel & Tourism News]
(Travel & Tourism News Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TURESPANA is working to boost its presence in the Middle East and attract more visitors to the country, a senior official at the Spanish tourism organisation tells TTN.
Improved air links between the UAE and Spain, and the opening of new visa offices in the UAE are together helping boost inbound tourism for the European nation, says Carlos Hernandez, who represents Turespa?a in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Excerpts of TTN's interview with the director and counsellor of Spanish tourism for the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries...
What is the percentage of business that Spain gets from Middle Eastern tourists? We currently do not have an accurate figure because Schengen visa holders come from other European countries as well. What is most relevant, however, is that there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of visas issued recently.
What was the total revenue generated through Spanish tourism last year? How much do you expect it to rise this year?Spain occupies a privileged position among the world's top tourist destinations. In 2012, 57.7 million tourists visited Spain and the tourism sector generated more than 11 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). 84 per cent of tourists to Spain are repeat visitors and 40 per cent come back to Spain more than ten times.
Tourist traffic between Spain and the Gulf countries, particularly the UAE and Qatar, is all set to grow. Emirates operates daily flights to Madrid and now has direct connections to Barcelona that join the existing daily flights operated by Qatar Airways. With the new A380 flight to Barcelona we will see an increase of tourists coming to our country. Last October, Saudi Arabian Airlines started direct flights to Madrid. We see that airlines are more interested in Spain than ever before. Turkish Airlines too operates flights from the Middle East to Spain via Istanbul (Bareclona, Madrid, Valencia, Malaga, Bilbao and from June 2013 also to Santiago di Compostela). According to Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (AENA), the number of passengers arriving in Spain on a direct flight from the UAE has increased from 1,532 in 2009 to 86,533 in 2011. From Qatar, the figure has tripled, from 48,648 passengers coming from Doha in 2009 to 152,639 in 2011. These numbers highlight the need for further action in these markets to ensure that Spain will continue climbing in the ranking of favourite tourist destinations in the Gulf.
Spain offers summer tourism and beaches, also business travel and cultural tourism. Which part of the tourism holds the biggest chunk of business for Spain?Spain is the premier sun and sand destination in Europe. It is rated as the best destination for holidays the world over and is one of the most important destinations for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice). Barcelona and Madrid are, in fact, two of the best cities in the world for meetings, congresses and conventions.
Which areas in Spain are most favoured by the people from the Middle East? The Alhambra Palace in Granada or the Great Mosque in Cordoba are some of the most favoured destinations in Spain. Both are in Andalusia, which is one of the most attractive destinations for Arab tourists due to its cultural attractions and Arabian legacy. Our gastronomy, monuments and music, and many words of the Spanish language show those ties exist not only in this region but in the whole country. Moreover, the big cities like Madrid or Barcelona awake a lot of interest of tourists coming from all over the world due to the lifestyle, wide range of museum and cultural activities, shopping and leisure possibilities.
The Plaza de Cibeles in MadridSpain is becoming a must-visit destination for tourists from all over the world and even more for tourists coming from the Middle East, as they will find a rich legacy of Arab culture, especially in Andalusia.
Tourists from the Middle East feel comfortable in Spain and in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao, Cordoba and Granada visitors can see how tradition and modernity co-exist in harmony. Marbella is very well known among the Saudis because of King Fahd's Palace while Prince Salman is a frequent visitor to the city. Spain also has deep-rooted historical and cultural relations with the Arab world. Those links are evident not only in the language but also our cuisine, monuments and even our music.
Which destinations are you planning to promote this year?Spain is a big country with a variety of destinations. We have 14 different regions within Spain. We have mountains, lakes, beaches, modern cities, island, so we recommend that tourists discover as much of the country as possible. There is no doubt that Madrid and Barcelona are the most famous and easily accessible but Balearic Island, Canary Island, and the north of Spain with its valleys and lakes are also very interesting to discover. Do you have any exciting promotion plans in the next few years?We are determined to increase our presence in the Middle East. To achieve this, we will undertake several initiatives. We will increase our ties with airlines and tour operators. We will market Spain more vigorously to the general public while organising training programmes for industry professionals.
We will be present at trade fairs including the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai and collaborate with Emirates airline. We will also organise familiarisation and press trips for the media. We need to continue educating tourism professionals for them get a better understanding of our country, and we will follow up on training sessions held last year by sending monthly newsletters to travel agents, the general public and the media while also promoting Spain online. By Rashi Sen
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