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Saragossa : Sustainable tourism development

This summer Beijing was not the only city to reveal its talents as a global event organizer. Beginning on practically the same starting block– the attribution of the exhibition dates from 2002 – Saragossa hosts Expo Zaragoza 2008 from June 14 to September 14. This major international exhibition’s theme is crucial to the 21st century: water and sustainable development. Supported by the Spanish government, this exhibition required the building of a brand new exhibition center on the banks of the Ebre to accommodate 140 pavilions and the 100 countries represented. Between 6 and 10 million visitors were expected throughout the 93 days of the exhibition and around the events, conferences, concerts such as those given by Bob Dylan, Gilberto Gil and Alanis Morissette.The only problem: the future. Several properties -Tryp, Paradores de Turismo, Husa, Express by Holiday Inn – opened just for the event. Does overcapacity lie on the horizon? “I am pessimistic. The city does not bring in enough conventions and we are in competition with Madrid or Barcelona, just an hour’s train ride away. It will be particularly trying for the newcomers,” fears Sol Melia’s revenue manager. With a state of the art congress center and tourism infrastructures, Saragossa has everything to become a big player in Spain. But will it be able to turn the legacy of Expo 2008 to profit?In 2001, the mayor of Saragossa José Atarés predicted a boom in his city’s tourism if he was elected: “growth will be beyond our wildest dreams”. While we cannot know what the final result will be, one indication makes it possible to judge the amplitude of the event’s success: the city’s RevPAR shot up by 169.1%! “It’s impressive. The impact was much greater than expected, particularly among the 4 and 5*,” observes Montse Cano, revenue manager of 5 Sol Melia hotels in the region. Hotel capacities (57 hotels including 21 4 and 5* for a total of 5,355 rooms) were stretched. Strong domestic clientele arrived from neighboring Madrid and Barcelona to visit Expo 2008 and the city for a length of stay that is often for two days. Other clientele such as “groups touring in Spain made a detour to Saragossa to visit the exhibition. They made their reservations a year ago and accepted our high prices,” congratulates Montse Cano. Rates skyrocketed for this event that brought in many professionals (academics, politicians, journalists).The only problem: the future. Several properties -Tryp, Paradores de Turismo, Husa, Express by Holiday Inn – opened just for the event. Does overcapacity lie on the horizon? “I am pessimistic. The city does not bring in enough conventions and we are in competition with Madrid or Barcelona, just an hour’s train ride away. It will be particularly trying for the newcomers,” fears Sol Melia’s revenue manager. With a state of the art congress center and tourism infrastructures, Saragossa has everything to become a big player in Spain. But will it be able to turn the legacy of Expo 2008 to profit?

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