The key to future success lies in diversity, according to British tour operators
The morning of the first day of the World Travel Market in London invariably brings a crush – one might almost call it a scrum – around the Spanish stands, with hundreds of tourism professionals jostling for space, and press conferences dovetailing so that reporters can attend them all, and still be free to cover the opening ceremony.
This year the excitement reached fever pitch with the arrival of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia, who inaugurated the Spanish section of the fair at midday and toured the stands, stopping to chat at the SUR in English stand with SUR’s Editor in Chief José Antonio Frías. Spain’s Crown Prince congratulated him on two counts, as SUR reaches its 75th anniversary next year and SUR in English has been supporting tourism with a stand at the World Travel Market for more than 25 of them.
After the departure of the Spanish royals the tourism sector at the World Travel Market got down to the business of meetings with travel contacts, but the mood continued to be upbeat. Joan Mesquida, Secretary General for Tourism and Trade, announced figures which show clearly that the upward trend in the British market is set to continue. Bookings for the summer of 2012 already stand at eight per cent more than in 2011, and the winter tourism figures are steady.
Several reasons were given for this bright outlook, including the recuperation of the British economy, and the influx of Russian tourists to Turkey, pushing prices in Turkey beyond the budgets of British holidaymakers. According to Joan Mesquida, there is also the fact that the British, if they cannot afford both, opt for a holiday rather than spending money on their homes, and that Spain is their favourite destination, even above holidays in the UK. There was however a rider to the optimistic forecast. “Of all the packages reserved by the British, 34.6 per cent are for Spanish destinations in 2012, up from 31.7 per cent this year” said Mesquida. “Overall, the forecast is that the growth in British tourism to Spain will be more than three per cent. If nothing untoward happens”. He went on to say that although the British economy has been out of recession for two years, unemployment is still at its highest for 20 years, and the government is planning on putting 600,000 more public sector workers out of a job. There is also concern in the UK about a proposed new air transport tax.
Luciano Alonso, Head of Tourism, Trade and Sport for the Junta de Andalucía, held meetings at the World Travel Market with eleven of the most important tour operators in the UK and was urged to provide more leisure opportunities for tourists. Explaining that British tourists, particularly if they only take one holiday per year, want to enjoy different experiences, they said that Andalucía should diversify, creating products that allow visitors to get off the beaten track. Different sporting activities also play a large role, as many Brits like to combine cultural tourism with a favourite sport, or a new one, as well as spending a day on the beach.
“Diversity is the name of the game at the moment in the UK” said Alonso after his meetings. “The traditional routes are not enough, they want to get to know new places. We’ve talked about towns like Antequera and Ronda, and the tour operators also stress the importance of golf, and in lesser known areas like Huelva (…) The tour operators appreciate the importance of recent improvements in infrastructure, good air connections, and our gastronomy, but they are asking for new products which go beyond these. They are looking for well designed holiday options, with new ideas and a variety of elements”.
The city of Malaga, whose popularity as a city break destination increases year on year, had heard the message about diversity. Mayor Francisco de la Torre was at the World Travel Market and signed a deal with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays to combine cultural tourism in the city with rambling in the Los Montes nature reserve north of the city.
On Monday evening SUR held a dinner for the tourism sector at the Skinners’ Hall in the City. A hundred guests gathered in the magnificent Grade I listed building dating from 1670, and were welcomed by José Luis Romero, CEO of Prensa Malaguena, and SUR and SUR in English representatives. Speeches were made by Joan Mesquida, Luciano Alonso, Francisco de la Torre and Elías Bendodo, who all spoke of the importance of the British market to Spanish tourism, and were warm in their appreciation of the support of the media group hosting the dinner.
The message was that tourism can only be strengthened by the combined work of all concerned.
source: sur in english
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