Spanish government aims to increase low season tourism by up to 12%
The Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, Miguel Sebastián, has announced that the government wants to increase the number of tourists visiting Spain during the low season by six or even twelve times. With this objective his ministry has designed a Project called ‘Hibern Spain’ which would offer package holidays to Spain during the low season from between 3 to 6 months and which would be aimed at retired European citizens. According to Sebastian this strategy would boost the service sector during the low season and would not cost the government anything in real terms. Miguel Sebastian also announced that the government wants to promote social European tourism that would help contribute to employment and strengthen the economy over the next few years as well as helping tourism evolve and move away from being divided into high and low seasons. He said that if the correct product was designed then there was a potential market of 100 million European citizens between 55 and 75 years old.
Another new strategy that Miguel Sebastián announced was the ‘Renovation Plan for Tourism Infrastructure’ which would be carried out in collaboration with local and regional governments throughout Spain. This plan aims to improve the profile of Spanish tourist destinations and help them in a very competitive market. With regards to his ideas for this plan Sebastian talked about profound changes to be made and challenges for the future. During his first appearance before the Commission for Industry, Tourism and Commerce said that this strategy of renovation would have an immediate impact on economic activity by boosting the construction sector which is currently experiencing a slowdown. A new Secretary of State for Tourism is to be created which according to Sebastián reflected the growing importance placed by the government on this sector for the Spanish economy.
He said that tourism had been and will be in the future one of the biggest ‘motors’ behind Spain’s economy. Last year tourism accounted for 12% of all employment and contributed around 11% to Spain’s GDP. Sebastian added that this sector of the economy was resisting the slow down more than other sectors. In fact, according to official figures in the first quarter of 2008 despite competition in recent years from the growing popularity of other cheaper Mediterranean destinations such as Turkey or Croatia 3.3% more tourists visited Spain than for the same quarter last year. They also spent 12,706 million euros during this period which is 6.2% more than for the same period last year. The Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce also announced that Spain was opening its 33rd tourism office in Bombay and that further offices would be opened in Prague, Budapest, Sydney and Seoul, with a budget of 2 million euros.
Sebastián announcced the government’s commitment to the construction of three new Paradors in Béjar (Salamanca), Molina de Aragón (Guadalajara) and Alcalá la Real (Jaén) pending approval. The government is also planning to put into place a project called ‘Privilege Spain‘, with products aimed at tourists with more money to spend. The Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, also mentioned the ‘Tourism Plan 2020’ which was passed by parliament in November 2007 and is aimed at consolidating Spain’s position as a leading tourist destination. Finally Sebastian said that the image of Spain as simply a destination of ‘sun and beaches’ need to be remodelled and said that places such as the Bahía de Palma, the Costa del Sol Occidental and San Bartolomé de Tirajana, in the Canary Islands needed to be re-evaluated with regards to what they had to offer.