Spain aims at quality Indian tourists, not numbers

April 1st, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Focusing on high-end travellers, Spain hopes to ramp up the 55,000 arrivals from India annually - but says it is aiming at quality rather than mere numbers. “We are a nation of 43 million and attracted 60 million tourists last year so numbers mean little to us. What we are looking at is attracting high-end Indian travellers,” Enrique Ruiz e Lera, director for India, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand of the National Tourist Office (NTO) of Spain, said.

“For us, India is a bigger market than China but we are not looking at numbers. Our priority is to position ourselves as a niche destination that provides travellers with a tailor-made experience,” Ruiz e Lera told IANS.

“The Indian market is much more interesting and much more sophisticated,” the Singapore-based official added.

Ruiz e Lera is here for the 10-day Spanish Food Festival that kicked off at The Claridges hotel Monday evening offering an a-la-carte selection of authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian Spanish preparations, as also a four course-tasting menu. Also on offer will be a selection of sangria and cava (wine-based drinks).

Two accomplished chefs - Josef Thomas Stork and Alexandra Denis Rios - have been especially flown in from Las Dunas Beach Hotel & Spa, Estepona, Spain to prepare the Spanish dishes.

On being asked about the similarities between the Indian and Spanish cuisine, Stork said that the most important similarities are the use of a lot of vegetables and spices.

The festival is one of the many initiatives launched by the NTO to increase arrivals from this country.

It will open an office in Mumbai later this year, even as Catai Tours, Spain’s leading tour operator to exotic destinations will be unveiling a brochure here showcasing the country’s Andalucia region.

Catai Tours was awarded the Best European Tour Operator to India by the tourism ministry in 2006.

“Mumbai was selected for its good connectivity with the rest of India as well as being a financial and economic hub and the main regional outbound market from India to Europe,” Ruiz e Lera explained of the new NTO office.

Spain has also taken steps to improve air connectivity and ease the visa regime.

“We had re-negotiated our air services’ agreement in 2006 to provide for 49 two-way flights a week. Jet Airways have promised to start a flight to Madrid via Brussels. We are also in talks with Kingfisher Airlines to make Madrid their European hub,” Ruiz e Lera pointed out.

Currently, only Qatar Airways that operates 48 flights to and from India a week offers four Doha-Madrid connecting flights.

Other foreign airlines offer non-connecting flights to Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish destinations from their European and British hubs.

A visa hotline has also been activated at the Spanish embassy here and will function 10 hours a day.

India’s potential was revealed during a yearlong Spanish government-funded survey conducted of the tourism market here.

The survey encompassed 1,024 one-to-one interviews in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Additionally, 46 interviews were conducted with MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) agents and conference and meeting organisers.

Buoyed by the findings of the survey, the Spain Tourism Board conducted a four-day workshop in Goa last October for 88 Indian travel agents and tour operators to expose them to what the country has to offer.

Nineteen Spanish officials represented the country at the “very successful workshop”, Ruiz e Lera said.

Spain’s 58 million visitors in 2006 earned the country a whopping 48 billion euros ($69 billion), with each traveller spending on average 852 euros ($1,229) during a stay of 9.4 nights.

Tourism is Spain’s main economic sector, accounting for 11 percent of its GDP, employing 12 percent of the workforce and reducing the trade deficit by 40 percent.

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