MAINSTREAM package trips to Spain inevitably seem to take you to the most built-up, rammed-full beaches, so infrequent visitors could be forgiven for believing the country's coasts are synonymous with mass tourism,...
Tourism is ‘necessary for broadening horizons and avoiding walls’, says Sánchez at global summit
SOCIETY ‘needs tourism to broaden its horizons and so as not to build walls’, Spanish president Pedro Sánchez said today (Wednesday) at an international industry summit in Sevilla.
He opened his speech at the World Travel & Tourism Council by thanking the global sector leaders present for their plans to invest up to €3 billion in Spain in the next few years, and by highlighting the ‘enormous potential’ of the rural holiday industry in the country, ‘not just because it is so attractive’, but because this sector is ‘a great future opportunity’ for facing up to ‘one of the nation’s main challenges’, that of re-populating villages in danger of extinction.
Sanchez recalled that Spain is ‘the number one global powerhouse’ in tourism, breaking even its own records in 2018 with 83 million international visitors – almost doubling the resident population – and some of the highest amounts spent by holidaymakers ever registered.
This said, Spain is a little concerned about the impact on the industry of Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, which for years were considered off-limits due to perceived terrorism risk and are once again attracting sunseekers to their beaches, undercutting Spain on price.
Experts have even claimed Spain’s beach tourism industry has peaked and ceased to be viable – although visitor numbers constantly refute this, the national holiday sector has long been seeking to promote the country’s other, unique attractions to gain visitors out of season.
And in February this year – the most recent complete month for which records are available – tourist numbers were up by over 3% on the same month in 2018, despite its being the coldest time of the year nationwide.
Sánchez said in today’s speech that Spain needs to focus on promoting tourism ‘off the beaten track’, especially in rural parts with their ‘unique secular traditions’, ‘authentic cuisine’ and ‘true treasures’ that ‘deserve to be discovered’.
“We need to promote visits to this fascinating Spain that is just begging to open up to the world,” he said.
“Those who do not want an open world risk building walls and borders.
“Speaking in terms of walls, border control and purity of national identity is a threat, which is why tourism is so important to enable us to understand the world as a meeting point, and to make it a more peaceful, harmonious and welcoming place.
“All those present here represent, and defend, a way of understanding and looking at a world that is thrown into conjecture in these times – you believe in an open, different society, tolerance of diversity and mutual respect, and you’re focused on a meeting of minds through difference and on satisfying curiosity.
“That’s why it’s more important nowadays than ever to broaden horizons, and not to build walls or create new borders.”
The president warned that climate change was forcing all industries and individuals, including in the tourism sector, to be ‘more energy-efficient’, and repeated Spain’s pledge to comply with Europe’s 2030 agenda on sustainable development.
During the summit, Sánchez met for 20 minutes with former US president Barack Obama, who had also travelled to Sevilla to take part in the meeting.
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