The importance of the tourism industry to brand Spain
In Spain’s case in particular it is the tourism industry which best encapsulates and promotes the national characteristics that serve to underpin and inform global awareness of the Iberian Peninsula – from bullfighting to tapas, the Costa del Sol to paella, the familiarity of Spanish culture, food and geography is without doubt largely thanks to its long and well established tourist sector.
And as such it is the tourism industry that is best placed not only to continue to raise international awareness of ‘brand Spain’, but also to work towards a strengthening and development of that brand image to ensure that it is competitive alongside ever-more accessible destinations.
Yet despite recent growth in Spain’s tourism sector - the number of foreign visitors continues to increase, with 58 million international tourists in 2012 - it has been insufficient to offset the decline in profitability. And with domestic tourism suffering greatly on top of that, Spain must offer improved services if it wants to increase tourism numbers and return to profitability.
In order to achieve this competitive brand image it is imperative that sufficient weight is given to improving the variety and quality of the services on offer from Spain’s tourism sector; specifically those originating from its hotels, restaurants and experiential possibilities. Only by refocusing on the innovation, promotion and consolidation of these criteria across the board can Spain expect to remain a desirable and viable destination choice.
The changing face of Spanish tourists
Yet whilst the Spanish tourism sector must rise to meet the challenge of an increasingly competitive destination market by continuing to better and evolve its tourist service offerings, it must also be mindful of the visible shift in the profile of those tourists choosing to visit Spain.
Historically with a high level of repetitive/returning tourism from within Europe, Spain is now beginning to see interest from further afield, bringing guests with different expectations that demand new hospitality considerations and service offerings whether it be the capacity to host both MICE and leisure guests or the flexibility to cater for families and young professionals or seniors alike.
In order to capitalise on these existing and new demographics there is a need for more flexibility in delivering on unfamiliar customer expectations whilst maintaining the familiar and popularly-sought hospitality of old.
For the returning European customer, hotels should think about loyalty programs that create incentives for repetition, whilst also offering them a broadening of travel experience horizons and superior product categories. Whereas for the new demographics there needs to be the quality assurance of international hospitality standards without the loss of appeal provided by traditional practices and an authentic ambiance.
There must also be better communication of the offer to tourists, and a need to understand what people want. Spain must spend more time and energy promoting non-seasonal tourism and the local area interests which accompanies such off-peak travel.
What we are doing to meet this challenge
At Asia Gardens we are tapping in to local and regional culture to bring a series of off-property experiences to our guests, whether they be staying with us for pleasure or business, at whatever time of year. Offering excursions to discover nearby mountain village life, promoting local arts and craftsmanship, and providing cooking classes to enable guests to master regional cuisine and local dishes such as paella, removes the seasonal dependence of Spanish tourism and maintains authenticity as a core element of our guests’ experience whilst offering additional services unique to our hotel, our region and Spain as a destination.