Reconversion of the product and the destination. Saturated cities and mature destinations look for alternatives to their success. Sustainability and digitization are the two main challenges that will mark the future of the sector
With virtual or augmented reality glasses, and without emitting CO2, tourism faces its great transformation. Cities reinvent themselves. Those that are more crowded like Mallorca or Barcelona resort to vetoes such as drunken tourism or tourist flats to deflate, while Empty Spain cries out for an impulse to end depopulation. Hotels and airlines are committed to sustainability and digitization. And the Government seems determined to give the starting signal to the reconversion of Spanish tourism.
In 2019, the seventh consecutive tourist record was harvested, touching 84 million arrivals. In the absence of knowing the final data to be published by the INE on February 3, the growth of tourism this year will be around 1%, however, it smells of slowdown, after eight years of crazy growth with rates between 5 % and 10%. And the question seems clear, “what will become of Spanish tourism in the coming decades?”
The formulator of the same was the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, last week, during an intervention during his visit to the 40th edition of the Fitur tourist fair. And gave the answer. The solution is to transform the tourism model to reduce the enormous dependence on the most typical Spanish product, sun, and beach, through the diversification of markets and the seasonal adjustment of consumption.
One of the challenges is to promote Emptied Spain with the conversion of less inhabited areas into tourist destinations. An example presented in Fitur against depopulation was. A road of 900 kilometers and 82 municipalities from Puente la Reina (Navarra) to Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia).
Some for much and others for little. The tourist boom between 2010 and 2018 caused the saturation of coastal destinations that are now fighting for the coexistence between tourists and residents. This is the case of Palma de Mallorca, with 420,000 inhabitants and more than 9 million tourists. “We regulate tourist rentals and hotel openings. Now we face regulating cruise ship tourism ”, explained its mayor, José Hila, during the Exceltur Forum.
The mirror of Spain could be Amsterdam. The Dutch city decided to put an end to the massive influx of tourists by leaving the promotion to teach tourists to be more respectful of the city. The tourist office leaves the typical places – that the tourist already knows – to promote the metropolitan areas. A measure? Remove the mythical Iamsterdam sign from the entrance of the famous Rijksmuseum and turn it into itinerant.
The Torremolinos, Torrevieja, and Benalmádena that experienced the boom in the 60s are now crying out for modernization to survive. Here the example is Magaluf, an area in which Meliá decided to transform into a luxury area. Or Torremolinos that is used to help tourists who go to Malaga.
But in addition to the cities, the change is also in the companies and in the interest of the tourists themselves. Digitization is one of the challenges. It will be increasingly common to check-in by facial or voice recognition with the smartphone, to be attended in a hotel by robots, or to complement the experience at the destination with virtual reality.
The other challenge is climate change. Awareness is growing, the most drastic example being the shame to fly movement that started in Northern Europe. The airlines face it by offsetting CO2 emissions, betting on less polluting aircraft, and more environmental efficiency.
Still no one – or very few people – changes their plans because one destination is more sustainable than another, but it will do so in five or ten years. Just as security and infrastructure make Spanish tourism a benchmark, sustainability is a new axis.
An “opportunity” for the future, according to the councilor of Turespaña in Stockholm, Mónica Fernández. “Today it may not be a sales pitch, but it will be a disadvantage in the future”, coincide with Iberostar. The hotel’s commitment is not to consume single-use plastics, to have suppliers from local destinations, and efficient construction, just like Meliá.
Issuing countries: Asia as a target
Korea, Fitur’s guest country this year, together with China and Japan are the three main emitters of tourists in the world. They are the ones who spend the most and, in addition, travel throughout the year as they are not fans of the sun and the beach. And that is what Spain is looking for: to depersonalize summer tourism and increase spending. Especially now that the competitors of the Mediterranean basin – Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey – have woken up with very low prices with which it is impossible to compete.
The key to attracting Asians is “creating good products and brands” as well as promoting “air connectivity”, as explained by the counselor of Turespaña in Tokyo, Magí Castelltort, in Fitur. In 2015 there was only one airline in Asia that aimed to connect Spain and China, now there are seven, according to his counterpart in China, Darío Polo. Five years ago 300,000 Chinese entered Spain, this year there were 700,000. But it is also important “that we adapt to them,” he added.
According to a study by the Spain-China Tourism Association, insecurity, meal times, signage on roads and transport, and the low level of English among Spaniards are some of the aspects that concern them the most.