Spring cultural agenda

“Spain, a country where 10.5% of its GDP comes from tourism, should be spearheading the reinvention of the hotel sector worldwide.”


The tourist season starts early in Spain. 19th to 23rd January were the month’s notable dates as Feria de Madrid hosted the FITUR International Tourism Trade Fair. Soon to be followed by the International Tourism Show of Catalonia, 7th to 10th April at Fira de Barcelona – the industry’s two most influential global trade gatherings. By Chris Dove

During the 2010 Spanish EU Presidency, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai, welcomed the ‘Madrid Declaration’ with its commitment “Towards A Socially Responsible Tourism Model”. With both FITUR and the Catalonia Tourism Show taking place amid new global conditions, Spain is vigorously adapting its tourism strategies to outmanoeuvre competing destinations.



“The Madrid Declaration is a first step in the commitment of the EU and all member states to sustainable, modern and socially responsible tourism.” Miguel Sebastián Gascón – Minister of Industry, Tourism & Trade

A goal of increasing importance has entered the strategic mix: Socially Responsible Tourism, describing how best to develop a more competitive, sustainable and socially responsible European tourism sector. The Lisbon Treaty came into force under Spain’s Presidency and included a regulation dedicated to tourism for the first time, creating a favourable climate for tourism’s SMEs as they contribute to “Europe 2020: a strategy for intelligent, sustainable and innovative growth”.

Specifically, the ‘Madrid Declaration’ focuses on the environmental, cultural and economic sustainability of tourism through coordinated actions by EU member states in partnership with the international community. The Declaration focuses on key strands in promoting Europe as a tourist brand:

• Facilitating vacation access to groups with reduced mobility or to those with fewer economic resources – ie. social tourism.

• Increasing effective consumer protection and standardising protection guidelines for tourism products given the multitude of languages, rules and legal systems that exist.

• Promoting research, development and innovation as key factors in the tourism sector as tools for maintaining global competitiveness.

• Emerging markets in India, China or Russia present growth opportunities for European tourism – a new visa issue policy must reflect the new market situation to avoid restricting demand.

• Europe’s ageing population provides opportunities for greater availability to travel outside of traditional seasonal periods. ‘Europe Senior Tourism’ is a pilot project facilitating travel by European citizens to Spanish destinations. 16 countries are taking part in the scheme – so far 49,846 people have travelled to Spain under this program.

FITUR  – Scope and Content

It’s fitting that the United Nations World Tourism Organization has its HQ in Madrid, host city to FITUR – Feria International de Turismo. The annual meeting of top flight tourism professionals provides a forum for strategic planning and business partnerships to strengthen and promote the industry.

10,966 exhibitors from 166 countries/regions enrolled, accounting for some 124,644 professional participants representing official tourist bodies, tour operators, hotels, travel agents and consultants in general management and international tourism development and promotion.

Sub-categories included FITURTECH for innovation and technologies; FITUR LGBT reflecting the growing importance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tourism demand; INVESTOUR Forum For Africa promoting sustainable tourism development; FITUR GREEN promoting energy efficiency; and FITUR BROKERAGE EVENT.



Tourism is one of the fastest changing industries there is and Catalonia’s tourism seems set to change the world.

The 20th edition of this premier event in the Catalan tourism calendar is open to trade and public visitors with its focus on five sectors: Travel Agencies and Tour Operators; Accommodation; Transport; Formation and Tourist Services; Official Organisations. In addition to activity areas covering Cultural and Recreational Tourism, this year features a new Sports Tourism sector; the fourth consecutive Pink Corner for the Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals market; a dedicated cruise lines zone; and ‘Gateway to the Desert’ Arab adventures area.

Another new departure for the event is the 1st International Travel Trade Exchange in Spain hosted by the Catalan Association of Travel Agencies and Saló Internacional. The event puts buying agents in contact with tourism wholesalers, retailers, national and international product and service companies. Exchange Day themes: sustainability and innovation; the consumer habits of travel agency users; and challenges facing the tourism industry.



The new Catalonia Tourism Agency takes a 21st century approach to tourism promotion, uniting public and private stakeholders in collaborative proposals and instruments which contribute to the generic promotion of the country as a tourist destination.

The Agency is implementing the Catalonia Tourism Strategic Plan 2011-2015 with stakeholder actions in three areas: territorial, planning and promotion, continually building on the strengths, commitments and achievements of the local Catalan brand through Strategic Plan 2005-2010. Tourism accounts for 12% of Catalan GDP employing 372,000 people in related activities.

Following the Agency’s launch, Business BCN asked director Delàs Ignatius to outline the global challenges, strategic goals and priority activities for the region’s tourism industry.


Changing times: Catalonia’s tourism industry is more self-aware, responding to new global contexts, new dynamics, new visitor demands and new ways to raise its profile. The country has seen dramatic change, new transport infrastructure connecting Madrid and Europe, internationally renowned facilities and equipment allow easy access for tourists.

Anti-crisis: The 21st century promotional hook is logical and innovative, recognising the economic and social environment and its impact on tourism as a highly social activity. Tourists’ consumption responds to economic but also psychological variables – fashion, expectations, etc. A sensitive area to balance.

Competition: Catalonia competes with destinations in Spain, Europe and the world: “Catalonia is competing with everyone because it is a small country, but our tourism wealth is enormous. Extraordinary variety of landscapes, product variety and climate catering to almost all sectors, sub-sectors and market segments. Catalonia can be positioned in the first line.” World leader in sun and beach tourism, also urban tourism, cultural tourism, cruise tourism and gastronomic tourism disciplines with enormous potential.


“The new Catalan Agency for Tourism is purposeful, provocative, innovative and interesting.” Delàs Ignatius – Director, Catalan Tourism Agency


Product positioning: Recover items from own identity within a global framework. Catalonia as a tourism brand for national and international markets, reinforcing the strategic importance of Barcelona, the Costa Brava, Maresme for medium and long-term success, like destinations associated with the exotic in tourists’ minds – eg. the naturalistic view of the Caribbean or Egypt’s cultural environments.

Segmentation: Globalisation allows cross-population groups to relate easily using the tools of technology, enabling CTA to reach niche audiences with specific needs, financial resources and opportunities to spend when the offer is structured globally, ie. micro-segmentation and Accessible Tourism. A priority action and affirmative argument for democracy regardless of mobility, accessibility, sensory or intellectual disabilities, ie. Justice Tourism.

Quality tourism: In demand AND supply. What stimulates a particular type of demand? What factors enable a country to provide quality public services, business products, professionalism within the sector, educational capacity, ability to adapt to customer needs for “a quality landing”?

Target neighbours: Outreach to Europe’s local markets which respond more favourably to Catalonia’s tourist offer – especially France, Italy, Switzerland. Lleida and the Pyrenees are easy to connect to. Proximity to France accounts for important market share and continued growth.

Value for money: Economising while maximising spend, ensuring major funding to boost service levels over the long term. Ability to generate maximum Return on Investment per share by assessing economic impact and satisfaction levels. Providing the tools and platforms to constantly reassess promotional efforts. Costs have fallen 20% for trade shows in recent years. These combined elements allow for overall efficiency.


Promotion: Affirmative action in all promotional materials emphasising Catalonia’s stand-out, above average elements to raise levels of expectation. International Tourism Show is Barcelona’s leading industry conference; the city continually occupies top position as a First City like Hong Kong, Vienna and Sydney. Catalonia is well placed for incentive travel given its wide variety of resources, a significant competitive element.

Events: Associate the Catalonia marque with major events, large corporations and existing entities as country Ambassadors eg. Barça Catalonia Circuit, award-winning chef Ferran Adrià. Present new products, ideas, initiatives and actions to tour operators etc. Workshops all over Spain and presence at other events beyond fairs.

Innovation: Build on excellent products from the management and quality perspective, add value to own identity, develop creative proposals to be “constantly on the customer’s mind”. What do they want? How do we anticipate need? Applying new technologies to international tourism as a social sector holds extraordinary potential for customer engagement.

Catalonia Convention Bureau: Recently created in response to segmentation. Collaboration with other Convention Bureaux at Sitges and Lloret de Mar eg. Barcelona Convention Bureau, Barcelona Province Convention Bureau, Aran Valley Convention Bureau. Work platforms, marketing systems and internal workings of their own sectors require a specialist program, agency/entity dedicated to the management of this market segment.

“Barcelona is a perfect complement to Catalonia as a city that hardly sleeps, providing natural, cultural identity, food related leisure opportunities, restaurants linked to the region’s ancient and extensive territories. The ideal destination for business in Barcelona.” Ignasi de Delás, Director de la Agencia Catlana de Turismo.