Spaniards hoping to conquer Arabian hearts

Borrego ... the GCC is an important<br>market for Spain

WITH more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, 4,000 km of coastline and a well-earned reputation for gastronomy, it’s perhaps not surprising that Spain has retained its privileged position as one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Receiving 57.5 million tourists from around the world in 2012, the Spanish tourism board Turespaña is now focusing its efforts on the Middle East and is aware of the potential from a region where the World Trade Organisation (WTO) estimates there will be 35 million tourist visiting other countries by 2020.

Isabel Borrego, Secretary of State for Tourism, emphasised the importance of the region in relation to Spain’s strategy, expecting a 50 per cent increase on tourist arrivals in 2013 compared to last year.

From the UAE, there were 26,120 tourists visiting destinations such as Madrid, Andalusia, and Barcelona in 2012 with an average spend per person of €1,584 ($2,048) staying for average of 6.5 nights. While the UAE dominated the top spot in terms of number of visitors from the GCC, visitors from Saudi Arabia stayed longer for an average of 10.9 nights and spent €3,349 ($ 4,330) per person.

At the ATM, Spain had 26 tourism entities on an 85-sq-m stand including hotels, destination management companies, and travel experts. In addition, companies such Real Madrid Área VIP Corporate Hospitality capitalised on the region’s love of football to offer exclusive seats and boxes at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

Spain is also planning a number of educational and PR initiatives including press trips in collaboration with Turkish Airlines and Emirates and workshops across the Gulf in Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait and Dubai.

The UK, Germany and France are currently the top three source markets for Spain with slight increases in number of tourists in 2012 compared to 2011.

By Karen Osman