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The movida takes hold of Spanish tourists

A big receiving country (ranked second worldwide) but not so big when it comes to visiting other countries has been the long held image of Spain on the international tourist scene.However, things are changing slowly but surely with 18-25 year olds at the heart of this promising new trend.

The youth of Spain is bubbling over with energy and desire for new experiences. It is not surprising therefore that they are the main target of tourist authorities from countries trying to attract Spanish visitors. This market has long been underestimated as it was considered secondary. But with almost 16 million overnight stays abroad each year, things have clearly evolved since, and 20 million are expected between now and 2010, that is a rise of 26% in the next four years. While these figures are far behind Germany, Great Britain and even Italy, they are sufficient enough to consider this market as something more than tri vial. It must be taken into account that Spanish society has entered into a period of great change in the last few years. On the one hand, its population is getting older, with 30% over 55 in the next ten years, and on the other hand, there is an increase in their purchasing power, in particular that of the CSP + from 25 to 55 living in urban areas, in fact the bulk of Spanish tourists that are venturing beyond the border.One thing is certain – the future represents a considerable challenge for the incoming markets of the Old Continent. In fact, they are going to have to maintain and develop their capital of sympathy, which they have with the Spanish youth, faced with growing competition – that of the Spanish regions themselves, which continue their efforts of intense marketing, that of far-off destinations – the Caribbean, USA and Cuba, which benefit from the newfound trust in long haul flights, and competition from countries such as Morocco or Turkey, which are geographically close but culturally exotic, making for less expensive holiday breaks.The country has long benefited from European growth, which explains the interest of the incoming destinations, but the rise slowed down last year with an unemployment rate of around 10%. The euphoria is wearing off a little but leisure and tourism remain areas of big spending for Spanish households. And the cult of shopping remains very popular (it has the highest number of credit card spending in Europe). Attracting this clientele means gaining pleasure-seeking, inveterate consumers who don’t mind spending once they are at their destination.Domestic tourism remains at the top with 80% of stays, and this is maintained by the great efforts of independent communities to position themselves as attractive destinations with aggressive marketing campaigns and successful highlighting of various heritages and promotions… But the potential for development is very real, in particular for neighbouring European countries that have benefited form a postponement on some long haul trips since September 11th. The Spanish are one of the countries who reacted the most strongly to terrorism in terms of fear of flying and reserving holidays in far away destinations. However, this mis trust has begun to wane, mainly under the impetus of the USA, who have increased their marketing campaigns with a certain success.The nineteen independent communities bring an element of complexity to tourist behaviour regarding going abroad. Spain is a country of very culturally distinct geographic communities and a different holiday approach is attached to each one. Expectations can be very different from one province to the next. The regional identities are anchored deeply and are more or less open to outside influences. Not surprisingly then, the most significant visiting areas are the metropolitan regions of Madrid and Barcelona, followed by the Basque country and Valencia. A few basic trends transcend the regional disparities nevertheless – in Spain the reduction of the working week has led to an increase in short and city breaks (36% of leisure tourism) as well as a decrease in the season to the advantage of a high season running from the beginning of May to mid-October. Spanish employees benefit form an average of 22 holiday days to which bank holidays are added (varying from one region to the next) thus opportunities to get away are numerous.Neighbouring Portugal remains the favoured foreign destination for the Spanish, followed by France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, the USA, Holland, Turkey, Argentina and Morocco. It could be noted that in 2005 Switzerland recorded a spectacular rise with 350,000 overnights, a rise of 20% in two years. Last year a big survey of Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index tried to define which destinations had the most potential with the Spaniards. When asked the question “Which country would you visit if money were no object?” Italy came first, followed by Australia and then France in third place. Canada and Japan came fifth and sixth. Over the last few years, the South American continent has doubled its efforts to make the most of its cultural-historic links with Spain. Cuba has been a particularly successful destination with 33% of arrivals between 2004 and 2005. Spain is now the third most frequent visiting country to the island.The internet is the best way to attract Spanish visitors since Spain has the highest number of households with highspeed internet connection (more than half). Etourism has found a particularly favourable place due to an “impulsive” approach characteristic of the web and working well with the Spanish mentality. They appreciate the offers of good deals from sites offering last minute breaks with varying destinations and dates. The big national daily newspaper sites all have their own travel portal and “dynamic packages” are very successful here with the young, the most active group of the Spanish population, when it comes to travelling. Eager to discover new cultures and experiences, these young people want to visit trendy European capitals with an exciting nightlife and shopping districts. Unlike those who seek peace and quiet, they are not afraid of crowds and like to mingle with the local population. They love meeting new people in bars, busy streets and nightclubs. Prague, Amsterdam, Paris and London are their favourite city destinations and hope to remain so. This attraction to big capitals remains a challenge for incoming countries that have difficulty spreading out the arrivals over the entire country, even in the case of long stays. In France, for example, 60% of overnight stays are in Paris.The lack of information in Spanish in most hotels is the result of a period when the market was too small to make efforts to adapt. This is no longer the case so further adaptations to Spanish tourists would be welcomed. Spanish clients are well-known for their unusual mealtimes, which they keep when abroad – having lunch at 2 or 3pm and rarely having dinner before 10pm or even 11pm! As a result, less experienced visitors are often disappointed to learn that a restaurant “no longer serves food at this hour”. When in restaurants, they do not drink much alcohol, despite having a reputation of being fun-loving people. However, they ask for more for jugs of water and baskets of bread than other tourists. It must be kept in mind also that they are the biggest smokers in Europe. The recent smoking bans in public places have prepared them to abstain but they choose places where they can smoke. In Spain, hotels and restaurants can choose to implement the ban or not. In hotels, they are demanding clients who do not hesitate to complain when there is a problem. Staff who listen to them are highly appreciated. Finally, and maybe even more than in other countries, hygiene is an essential element of satisfaction.The business clientele from Spain also has its specificities. They appreciated promotional and low season offers. Moreover, “incentive trips” are not very common because the Spanish mentality allows more casual and informal relations in the workplace. Therefore, there is not such a need for breaks away between colleagues to get to know one another or to develop deeper relations.One thing is certain – the future represents a considerable challenge for the incoming markets of the Old Continent. In fact, they are going to have to maintain and develop their capital of sympathy, which they have with the Spanish youth, faced with growing competition – that of the Spanish regions themselves, which continue their efforts of intense marketing, that of far-off destinations – the Caribbean, USA and Cuba, which benefit from the newfound trust in long haul flights, and competition from countries such as Morocco or Turkey, which are geographically close but culturally exotic, making for less expensive holiday breaks.

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