In this interview executed by the Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Renew Europe CoR), Manuel Alejandro Cardenete, Vice-Minister in the office of the Vice President of the Andalusian government in charge of Tourism, Justice and Local Administration, discusses the future of tourism and how vital this economically important sector is. He is also the rapporteur on the future of sustainable tourism.
Why should we consider tourism a vital industry? How vital is it for your region of Andalusia?
The tourism sector in Spain accounts for almost 13% of the GDP and almost 13% also in terms of employment, and is therefore the second largest contributor to GDP in terms of employment. Tourism is one of the engines of the Spanish economy. In addition, according to the World Economic Forum, Spain has won back its title as the most competitive country in the world in tourism and with the second most visitors (behind France).
In Andalusia, even more so, tourism accounts for 13% of GDP at regional level and 14% in terms of employment, which makes it a key sector of the Andalusian economy: last year we received 32.5 million tourists! The summer of 2019 was the best summer in the whole series, a record with 26.2 million stays being recorded during the months of June and July. It is a reality that Andalusia is the favourite destination of the Spanish in the summer (70% of tourism in Andalusia is national). In addition to the summer we can also highlight the Holy Week and fairs in each of our provinces as well as large international events such as the Jerez de la Frontera Motorcycle Grand Prix and the Valderrama Andalucía Masters Golf Championship. The good health of our tourism means employment, it means wealth and opportunities for many people who want to start a business in Andalusia.
Will there be a touristic season this summer?
We hope so. Spain just announced that it will open its borders to tourism in July, and the interprovincial movement will be reactivated according to each territory after they pass the third phase of de-escalation planned by the state authorities’ health care. We hope that Andalusia will be in this scenario at the end of June. The reaction will be slow, according to all the market forecasts that we are consulting, although we have put all the means at our disposal to guarantee that it is as dynamic and safe as possible for both visitors and operators and tourism professionals.
What’s your view on European Commissioner Thierry Breton’s guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot European tourism?
The European Commission’s package of proposals of 13 May are of extraordinary importance for tourism. It recognizes the relevance of the sector for the economy and employment in Europe and it is given the attention it deserves. This is a long-standing demand that is finally being met, and we should congratulate it. Because it also commits him to the transformation towards a new model of sustainable tourism, through the two major strategies of the European Commission: Europe’s adaptation to the digital age and the European Green Deal. Commissioner Breton also placed tourism at the centre of the so-called Marshall Plan, with the commitment to devote up to 25% of recovery funds to the sector.
On 5 March, I had the opportunity to exchange views in the NAT commission of the Committee of the Regions on how we could move towards a more sustainable and competitive tourism in cities and regions. We all agree on the urgent need to address high-impact challenges in a coordinated and joint way. Challenges such as climate change, increased congestion, pressure on the infrastructure and water and energy consumption, environmental degradation and loss of identity and authenticity of people affected by it, so there’s a dramatic need for health security arising from COVID-19.
The crisis accelerated the urgency of the measures needed to respond to these challenges and to ensure the safety and well-being of residents and of visitors. We think that tourism has the capacity to give the answer with adequate policies and with the necessary investments, but always leading the transformation of the model of sustainability proposed by the Green Deal and Digital Agenda of the European Union. The measures proposed on 13 May by the European Commission are a major step forward in the right direction, although we will certainly need to continue to work closely together with European, national and regional authorities, with businesses and destinations for the recovery of the sector.
How can you encourage people to spend their holidays locally in their own country/region? How are you doing it?
Since the beginning of the crisis, Andalusia made important financial and marketing measures available to its tourism sector, to contain its decline, to stop job destruction and to help job recovery. Among these measures, we have a Shock Plan that includes concrete actions to promote proximity tourism, that promotes the arrival of travellers from their own region and of the rest of the country.
These are actions such as the realisation of the first fair on virtual travel, communication campaigns specifically designed for these markets, increased promotion on social networks, strengthening of alliances with operators and airlines, familiarisation trips or event sponsorship, all this to spread an image of quality and security of the destination. We are also analysing the possibility of launching a holiday voucher to promote making trips within the territory itself, either by means of a direct bonus to the purchase of tourist packages or as fiscal relief on the personal income tax.