Why not? This is my suggestion, if each of us believes that it is possible and we begin to contribute ideas with an attitude of achieving this, why not? In recent month we have received more search requests for professionals in the tourist sector than in other fiscal years. This is good news not only because it reflects the healthy position of this sector within the Spanish economy, where it represents roughly 12% of the GDP, but also because it indicates that the sector is becoming even more specialized and more professional. In the year 2011, activities in the tourism sector employed a total of roughly 2 million active persons. This represents 10% of the active persons in the whole of the economy (23.1 million) and 15% of the active persons in the service sector. Our challenge is to be able to achieve 3 million active persons in the sector. This might seem like a fantasy, but movement creates the path, and every person makes his contribution.

We have a long way to go, and the tourist offering in Spain must improve as a whole in order to achieve this, from the small restaurant or rural hotel to the big groups of tour operators. Both in specialization and professionalism and also in quality. In spite of this, this sector already CREATES JOBS, I have found these two data in the recent report  Barometer of the Profitability and Employment at Spain’s Tourist Destinations BALANCE for 2011 published by Exceltur:

  • The increased flow of tourists has caused a rise in the hotel RevPAR 11.4% at the 53 most significant vacation destinations in Spain, thus reaching a total of 49.7€ on average in 2011, slightly above the 48.9€ of income registered on average in the 52 cities with more hotel places (4.0% more than in 2010).
  • The rise in tourist activity has stimulated the creation of 6,990 new jobs connected with tourism at the vacation destinations (this indicates a growth of 3.4% in 2011 respect to the registers from 2010) and 2,942 new jobs in the urban destinations (1.2% more than in 2010).


Spain is a tourist power at the global level, in 2011 we received a total of 56.7 million international tourists, with an increase of 4 million tourists over 2010. This was obviously favored by the situation in the North of Africa.  Let’s also consider our 8th place ranking in the study of  tourism competitiveness 2011 published by the World Economic Forum.

In spite of this, specific sectors, companies and persons continue to act as though Spain was not competitive in this sector, and hence it is difficult to arrive at this figure. The formula of the sun and the beaches is limited. We have to do our homework, and global competition is no different than in other sectors, even though we are now a major power. The path ahead is long, we must consolidate, seek profitability, make this sector sustainable so that it can help fight unemployment.


For this purpose we must create an attractive and specialized offering, that is also  innovative and differential. Mass tourism is fine, it is necessary, but if we wish to arrive at the magic number we must serve the niches, the segments not yet addressed, and innovate constantly in the offering. We have to make it much more attractive, to convince our customers. To complement it with other already existing offers, thus producing combinations while trying to extend it both in days and in intensity, and seeking more repeat business. For example:


  • Our clients are Europeans, including the UK and Russia plus the USA. We must create loyalty. But let’s look for new clients in China and Russia, and personalize the offering for them. We think that the same thing interests an American tourist and a Chinese tourist. This is a big mistake.


  • We must round out the naturist offering by creating more and better protected spaces. And by promoting them.  Increasing the sites recognized by the UNESCO in its World Heritage List.  Now we have 43, which is a lot, but only five of these are natural sites.  Take advantage of hunting tourism and observation of the flora and fauna. Set up activities connected to nature that complement cultural tourism. Such as, for example, the offering of the park  Doñana in Cadiz, the sighting of the Iberian wolf in liberty in Zamora, or the recent creation of a network of ornithological routes in the Community of Madrid.


  • We must create fun, the tourist comes to enjoy, and we must make it easy for him, whether it be with Ibiza’s clubbing tourism, sports tourism in the famous Tarifa and the most recent successes of the marathons in Madrid and Barcelona, the cultural routes Gaudi, Dalí, Picasso, Lorca…first-rate museums, fine-dining,  etc., etc.


  • With the creation of unique and unrepeatable experiences that are impossible to copy in the competition’s offerings such as the Camino de Santiago, the Feria de abril in Seville, Easter Week in Zamora and Seville.  Or with new, unique mega-projects wherever possible, such as the VEGASPAIN proposed by Sands Corporation.


All of this must be combined with improvement in costs and access to this offering, of course, (another post all by itself).  But the most important thing is how to market it. According to the report cited by the World Economic Forum, Spain occupies 14th place in the state’s prioritization of policies tied to the sector, if we add to this the fact that the marketing is not unified, but rather proceeds freely, with each community or entity searching for its own path and its own market, we complicate sales. Instead of offering a unified destination as a country with multiple complementary options, we offer multiple destinations and unconnected offers. Instead of offering a vacation solution, we offer a destination.  We must do so in a coordinated manner, creating synergies. Complication and confusion do not act in our advantage: the competition from other countries without these problems and with lower costs is unforgiving.

We must improve considerably in professionalism and quality of service, not only that of those who work in this sector, with training and recycling, which is indispensible, but also that of the general population toward the tourist, in the report we occupy 54th place in the population’s attitude toward the foreign guests. Why don’t we take 1st place, and surpass New Zealand and Iceland? They are our customers, everyone’s customers, and that is how we must treat them.


The preceding recommendations attempt to indicate, with some accuracy, a way of achieving the objective of 3 million jobs in the tourist sector and its immediate impact on the Spanish GDP, but in order to achieve this, it is absolutely indispensible, a necessary but not sufficient condition, that the offering also attempts to make the additional demand that it creates  INDEPENDENT OF SEASON AND LOCALITY. The arrival of tourists is concentrated in a few months, from June to September mainly, and in some specific areas, the beaches of Catalonia, the Balearic and Canary Islands.  Attempting to achieve this figure with the same concentrated model would be a utopia.

©Felipe Santiago


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