Representatives of the public administration and tourism companies have gathered today at the Vocento headquarters to discuss the recovery of the main sector of the Spanish economy. The
Euroforo Vocento on tourism in Spain It has dealt with topics such as the recovery of the leadership of our country, the management of European funds, the transformation that tourism needs to address, smart destinations and digitization and sustainability, among others.
Tourism in Spain lived in 2020 the worst year in its history, regressing its GDP to the levels of the 90s. In the first year of the pandemic, activity fell by 116,000 million, and has affected more than 800,000 jobs, among those destroyed, which are almost 400,000 and those that are in ERTE. A circumstance that the municipalities most dependent on tourism have suffered, as recalled by the director of the SUR newspaper, Manolo Castillo. “That Malaga is the peninsular province that suffered the greatest collapse in GDP is no coincidence,” he commented. Only the islands had a greater collapse.
That is why the European Next Generation funds stand as “a lifeline and one of the hopes that the industry clings to,” Castillo explained. In the plan that the Government has sent to Brussels, it is stated that 3.4 billion will be allocated to tourism, which will end up generating about 100,000 jobs. Some figures that the Secretary of State for Tourism, Fernando Valdés, has valued in his speech at the institutional inauguration of the forum. “We have a plan to raise our tourism to the highest quality standards,” said Valdés, who has raised the importance of sustainability as a “central pillar for the competitiveness of the sector.” In addition, he affirms that up to 44,000 million of the plan will indirectly affect the tourism sector.
Regarding the forecasts for this year, the Secretary of State for Tourism has been optimistic about the summer campaign. «Summer must mark the start of international mobility, which will make us have a better season than 2020, “he said. The figures, even so, are expected to be far from the prepandemic values, although Valdés trusts that some values registered in 2019 will recover by the end of the year. In order to give the necessary boost to the sector, Valdés has highlighted the importance of the certificate digital green that Spain wants to implement already in June and international mobility to be restored as of May 20.
After the words of the Secretary of State for Tourism, the first round table was held, which addressed how to recover tourism leadership in Spain, and which was moderated by the deputy director of ABC, Yolanda Gómez. The president and CEO of Iberia, Javier Sánchez-Prieto, the mayor of Valladolid, Óscar Puente, and the vice president of Exceltur, José Luis Zoreda, participated in it. All of them are clear that it is vital that Spain once again have powerful tourist activity in summer. “Tourism is what brings us the most wealth. The best help is to regain mobility. Many businesses can’t resist another summer without income», Said Javier Sánchez-Prieto. In turn, Zoreda added that “tourism is capital for Spain, which will not recover economically this year if tourism is not active”, at the same time that he warned of the “deterrent effect” that tourists from the United Kingdom have to quarantine when they return to their country if they come to Spain.
For his part, the mayor of Valladolid focused on the possibilities that Spain has to promote inland tourism, “which has a great margin for growth.” For this reason, it is committed to the diversification of the sector and greater investments in inland tourism, which is not as seasonal as sun and beach tourism. “The rebalancing in the fields where we have room for growth, such as culture or gastronomy, there we have to make greater efforts because tourists spend more, savor the experience more,” he explained.
This diversification proposal was met with the discrepancy of Zoreda, who pointed out the need to protect sun and beach destinations, badly damaged by the pandemic. «The large factories of Spanish tourism are very vulnerable, and these are found on the coast and on the islands. No company would drop what it produces the most to diversify into other positions. If the funds are going to be distributed to look good with 162 tourist destinations, I think we will be making a mistake, “he said.
Precisely, the aid from Europe and the package of direct aid that the Government made available to the autonomous communities have focused part of the first debate. For the president of Iberia, the pandemic “is going to leave scars on our balance sheets and income statements and we will have to spend years to recover due to the levels of indebtedness». That is why he advocates “making more efficient use of our resources and supporting us in recovery plans.” Some plans that companies expect as May water, since they have not yet seen a euro of these. In this sense, Zoreda showed that the direct aid approved by the Government “must now reach small entrepreneurs. It is important that it be done in the short term to guarantee the survival of the sector.
Regarding European aid, there was consensus that reinforcing connectivity is key for Spain’s leadership. “This crisis has made it clear to us that connectivity is key,” explained the president of Iberia, who highlighted the importance of connecting the AVE to T4 from Barajas airport. Zoreda, for his part, highlighted that 80% of tourists arrive in Spain by plane.
But despite the importance of the plane for the arrival of tourists, the vice president of Exceltur does not understand why now they are trying to tax aviation fuel or Aena raises airport taxes. “Companies are making huge sacrifices to survive and others are charging rents for airports where no people pass through or raising rates,” he explained.
Regarding the amount of the funds directly destined to tourism, 3,400 million euros, Zoreda has expressed that “they are insufficient within what tourism means for Spain.” For this reason, he trusts that the 44,000 million that would come indirectly is a reality so that the reforms and relocation of the most important assets in the sector are addressed.
The second discussion table was ‘Smart tourist destinations’, moderated by Germán Jiménez, general director of Turium, with Enrique Martínez Marín, president of the State Society for the Management of Innovation and Tourism Technologies, Segittur, and Juan Molas Marcellés , president of the Tourism Board. Technology, as a great ally in the transformation process –effective and sustainable- of a sector, was the framework for an exchange of opinions on an activity in which – as Jiménez pointed out – records in launching of startups linked to tourism have been broken .
As Martínez Marín pointed out, part of this “intelligence” is associated with a form of measure actions and reactions more reliably of the sector, with capital «such as financial, social –faith in the institutions-, intangible –the one linked to the capacities of our jobs-, ecological or natural, and so on. ». Part of a process (which has the support of institutions such as Ametic or red.es, as well as the University) in which the knowledge acquired must be shared across all the agents involved. And an activity in which, as the Segittur representative pointed out: “50% of the value of the trip comes from public elements (roads, hotel facilities, etc.)”.
Molas, for his part, clarified how “smart destination” also implies, for example, accessibility (“there are 50 million disabled people in Europe”), as well as energy efficiency or management of people’s movements, without forgetting something as obvious as a sufficient internet access coverage. In this endeavor, the professional appealed to a recurring need: «We need Tourism to be a State policy. It is a priority for a sector that comes to offer 12.4% of direct GDP –And, according to our estimates, 20% of the indirect as Spanish. The ‘smart destinations’ reinforce the ‘Country Brand’: all of Spain is a ‘shareholder’ in tourism ».
Technology was also the backdrop for the ‘Digital Revolution for Quality Tourism’ meeting, moderated by Laura Pintos, Head of Style and Gastronomy at ABC, who highlighted during the presentation the importance of technology to offer increasingly personalized experiences and, therefore, of added value, to customers. Javier Hurtado, Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Consumption of the Basque Government Héctor Coronel Gutiérrez, Director of the Madrid Destination Tourism Area of the Madrid City Council, and Jimmy Pons, specialist in tourism innovation and digital transformation, participated in the colloquium.
A tourist, a traveler, increasingly demanding and committed, benefits from the introduction of technology in the sector. In this sense, Hurtado highlighted concepts such as “‘smart rooms’, which delve into a more personalized service and, therefore, in a better customer experience, in an increasingly sustainable environment, which implies energy savings and, therefore, efficiency ”. In Coronel’s case, he stressed the importance of the functional application of technology: «For example, being aware of the needs of a business visitor, who wants a quick ‘check-in’ … and who already has a lot of information in your ‘smartphone’. Therefore, it is necessary to adapt to the different profiles, to offer the best possible experience ”.
Innovation as a way of thinking, balance between technology and people, the importance of these developments to go from quality tourism to one of excellence … In this environment, Pons specified the importance of being well connected –In its broadest sense- in times like today: «Transformation must be in capital letters and digital in lowercase, since one thing is to dominate the internet or social networks and, quite another, to know how to apply it to business. Innovation is also creativity and, if we talk about specialized entrepreneurship, we have to go from ‘entrepreneurs’ to ‘entrepreneurs’ ».