SPAIN: Tourism is a hot topic since it is increasingly popular every year globally, and this remains true and universal when we are looking at the trends in Spain.
The country is considered a world leader in tourism. Due to its increasing rate (in 2018, there were 82.6 million international tourists, 0.9% more than the year prior) and its increasing profitability, it is important now more than ever for Spain to reexamine their policies to create more sustainable tourism.
This new policy aims to face the challenges in the tourism sector, in both the short term and long-term time depending on the three main concepts surrounding sustainability: socio-economical, environmental, and territorial.
The situation with tourism in Spain is now at a point where it is positive enough for there to be a proposition of evolution and working towards a more profitable and sustainable sector than at its status.
Previous touristic models
The previous models and policies for Spain were based largely on the massive advertising as a beach and sun destination, which works very successfully. Spain is considered the number one destination in Europe for the sun.
The Futures I plan of 1992 was the first major policy that the government gave in response to the challenges faced by tourist destinations and companies. This measure let the Spanish tourism sector blossom towards a model that achieved continuous growth of income, allowing it to become a leader in the beach and sun market.
After this plan, numerous other policies had encouraged competitiveness, quality, or value proposition and have had very positive results until 2015 when the Central Government abandoned the tourism sector without a proper strategy in place.
After the year 2018, it was decided that it was time to reevaluate the tourism development model that has had multiple successes in the past, but it must adapt to the new scenario marked by the continued growth, technological innovation, and changes in the market behavior.
The weakness of the current industry lies in the following: the dependence on the sun and beach marketing and product, the dependence of certain markets such as the UK and Germany, which account for 50% of the international visitors, the seasonality of the tourism sector which is mostly centered around the summertime and the saturation of citizen space in some urban destinations.
There are also other weaknesses, such as the wasted tourist potential in the rural areas of Spain, which, although it has grown, is not a viable economic alternative for many rural territories.
This new strategy will consider the threats that are currently being faced by the industry, such as Brexit. This implies a change in the legal situation of British tourists to which the tourism market largely depends, competition of the allocation of resources, climate change and its impact on water resources and coastal destinations, the progressive depopulation in the rural territories.
Therefore, to create a well thought out policy, Spain needs to consider the opportunity that arises from the expanding tourism sector, such as the increase of international and national demand, development of new tourism products, and the diversification of the markets with the incorporation of emerging markets (such as Asia).
What is the new approach?
The policy that is being prepared to be implemented for 2030 will have the following pillars: socioeconomic growth, preservation of natural and cultural values, social benefit, participation and governance, permanent adaptation, and leadership. These are all crucial as the objective of the Spanish government remains to transform the tourism sector into one that offers sustainable growth.
The first line of action will be to boost governance tools. The existing institutional coordination mechanisms must be reactivated and enable new ones when necessary, promoting the connectivity of actors with common objectives.
Secondly, a territorial policy must be developed that will create the desired impact. Thirdly, there must be an increase in the international influence of Spain from tourism; as a world leader and Member State of the EU. It must exercise its power with agenda and debates and incorporate international bodies such as UNESCO to boost tourist activity for rural territories.
There will also be an effort to promote balanced development in the territory and be more efficient in tackling that demographic challenge. There will be a promotion of sustainability as a brand value of Spanish tourism, deepening the awareness of the sector and the need for the conservation of the natural and cultural activities, preserving the character of Spain, and, in turn, the country’s values.
The benefits of the new policy
This transformative policy would help rehabilitate the landscape of Spain’s tourism sector and maintain it at a steady and sustainable growth. The diversification of the market would allow Spain to reach Asian markets more and sell products that do not involve the beach and sun market.
In turn, this would mean that the rural territories of Spain, if successful, can manage to make tourism a viable economic alternative to themselves.
Moreover, the policy will strengthen the international community and mobilize it for Spain to promote domestic and international tourism during high season and in a more sustainable manner season-wide and nationwide.
The design of this measure is so that it can have a positive effect on developing tourism and the preservation of cultural and natural resources and traditions in the country.
Spain can expect that by bringing more financial stability to the rural areas through this policy, it would mean that rural depopulation would not be as much of an issue anymore due to the availability of jobs.
Furthermore, promoting sustainability as a brand value of Spanish tourism would awaken awareness and gradually inspire tourism activity towards a circular economy and thus the protection of the environment and the urgency of the use of clean energy.