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Valencia: the rising star on the Spanish coast

Spain is once again a hot spot for hotel investors. On this marketplace that is one of the most dynamic in Europe, Valencia seems like a very promising newcomer. The city presents many advantages and its infrastructures are in a rapid growth trend.

The economic and cultural Movida that has been driving Spain for some time now has not forgotten Valencia, the Spanish Mediterranean’s great tourism metropolis. During the last summer season, local hotels reported very fine scores, mostly thanks to the preliminary trials for the America’s Cup. But these favourable results are part of a trend that began a long time ago. Thus across 12 cumulated months, the RevPAR of hotels in Valencia is up by 19,50 % thanks to the combined growth of occupancy and rates. In 2005, the city reached the historic number of 1 300 000 million tourists, an increase of 16% in comparaison with 2004.Everything combines to suggest that 2007 will be a stellar year for Valencia. In June, it will host the final competition of the 32nd America’s Cup. It won the competition to host the event against all its European shoreline rivals: Marseilles, Lisbon and Naples. This event is all the more important for the city as it will be the first European edition of this prestigious regatta, which will benefit from the ideal wind conditions along Valencia’s shores. Local authorities have decided to entirely renovate the port for the occasion, as well as build a navigable canal to separate racing yachts from commercial vessels. Seating for 8,000 spectators and new hotels are also on the menu. But the most important will be media coverage of this event, which is worldwide today. In addition to the hundreds of millions of euros of immediate economic windfall, the results in terms of international visibility will produce a more long-term effect. All this should contribute to enlivening the area affected by the port, and thus the entire city by domino effect.Another sign of good health is the renewal of openings within the upscale supply. Major international brands are looking carefully at Valencia’s very promising growth potential, thereby joining the ranks of Spanish operators such as NH Hoteles and Silken, which have been established for a long time. The Westin Alameda Valencia with its Art Nouveau façade, 124 rooms and 10 suites including a "royal suite", thus opened its doors last August. And that’s not all. Three new luxury properties joined the city’s inventory this year: the Parador de El Saler (already existing, but renovated into a 5* hotel) and the Hotel Sorolla Palace (270 rooms), both of which have been operational since this summer, as well as the Hilton Valencia (first 5* located in the immediate vicinity of the Congress Hall), which is scheduled to open next December. The latter will have no fewer than 306 rooms and 18 meeting rooms.Like the rest of Spain, which often flirts with overcapacity, Valencia’s hotel supply is already large, with 10 five-star properties (including those already mentioned); 34 fourstars, some of which opened very recently including the Zenith Valencia in the centre of town; 37 three-star hotels and a fairly large economy supply. Total supply : 13 000 beds. While this may have represented a handicap for occupancy rates in the past, for some time now the share of business clientele and the increased volume of certain foreign clientele seem to re-establishing a balance. Valencia’s three main supply markets are Italy, Spain, and now France, which has grown spectacularly: on the first seven months of 2006, the French accounted for nearly 25,000 visitors, or a 13.5% increase over 2005, which was already a record year...The fact that Valencia is the Spanish city with the most secondary residences is proof of the appeal of the local environment. It enjoys the image of a place “where life is good” and works to defend this status by taking good care of its network of green spaces, including six large parks and gardens with recreation areas for all ages. The largest of these is the Cabecera (300,000 square metres), which is being considerably expanded to make it an essential leisure centre for residents and visitors alike. It will have a lake with a navigable surface of 22,000 square meters (pedalos, canoes, kayaks...), the Bioparc (the future zoological park) and an amusement park. Valencia also means renowned beaches, which represent a major asset. In addition to their beauty and their natural sun (2,800 hours per year), they also have particularly attractive infrastructures that earn one of them the European "Blue Flag", which is THE international label of quality in the field that takes into consideration water quality, accessibility and safety/surveillance.But the city offers more than the “sea, sex and sun” ideal of vacations that is a thing of the past. This market alone is very mature and is insufficient for Valencia to remain competitive. Valencia has a number of other reasons that make it stand out with regard to cultural activities, and this proves to be salutary at a time when behaviours are changing and people are increasingly on a quest for holidays "with meaning". The showcase for its international success continues to be the fiesta called Las Fallas in the spring, from March 15 to 19. This enormous event is an opportunity for the Mediterranean city to don its fiery best (Fallas literally means fireworks). More than 300 temporary monuments, for the most part huge statues made of cardboard, wood and plaster, transform the city into an open-air museum. Parades and festivities take place for five days straight. And then the city stops to rest a short while until another festival, the "Feria de Julio", takes over the streets for the entire month of July when concerts, bull fights, street theatre... and even a traditional gigantic battle of flowers take place. That same month the Certamen Internacional de Bandas is held. This International Band Festival has kept the city alive with music for over a century. After the feast for the eyes and ears, the festival makes its way into the city’s dishes as well: Valencia is a capital of gastronomy and popularized its famous paella together with a wide array of local specialties that are as well-known as they are prized by clientele throughout the Peninsula.Aside from sporadic events, culture plays a permanent role through museums: San Pio V, second largest museum in the country after the Prado, the IVAM (Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art), the City of Arts and Sciences...; and its many monuments, the Cathedral, the Basilica of the Virgin, the arenas... Moreover, the City of Arts and Sciences, from the heights of its futurist architecture, is a vast complex uniting the Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Hemisférico (planetarium, Imax theatre, sound and light installations...), the Palacio de las Artes (opera, theatre, concert hall) and the Oceanografic, a veritable underwater "mini-city" with a giant aquarium.A part of the Spanish Movida in all its aspects, Valencia, too, is a night owl. The Barrio del Carmen continues to be the main centre for local nightlife, but discotheque and bar neighbourhoods may be found throughout the city... With its past as a port, the animated and hectic Mediterranean city has a rich maritime heritage. This is an important advantage as the younger set of domestic clientele, meaning the part that is currently the most dynamic (see HTR n°138), is above all looking for parties and socialisation during their holidays.But while Valencia maintains its position at the head of the competition as a leisure destination, it has also succeeded in shining in terms of business and congress clientele. And in this regard, it has taken an ambitious approach. Its primary assets today are its recent state of the art installations for salons, fairs and seminars. The city’s “Palacio de Congresos”, considered a model of contemporary architecture, stands out for its impressive capacity, and the Fiera di Valencia even more so. As an installation created for major events, the Fiera holds the record as the largest covered surface in Spain, and one of largest covered structures on the planet.To a lesser extent, but by no means negligible, is Valencia’s positioning on a number of tourism niches that are currently very strong. In terms of religious tourism in particular, the city is in the forefront. The Holy Week assumes a particularly significant dimension with very large processions. The same is true during the Corpus, at the end of Lent, when a grand procession of floats stages the mysteries of the Bible.More generally, good transportation connects the city to the rest of Spain and foreign countries. And, authorities say it is working to equip itself with infrastructures on a par with those of a major European city. During the America’s Cup next summer, the new underground will already connect the Port and the Manises airport, which is also undergoing works for expansion. In the near future, the new central train station will host the high speed AVE, which will provide connections with all the major cities in the country...Everything combines to suggest that 2007 will be a stellar year for Valencia. In June, it will host the final competition of the 32nd America’s Cup. It won the competition to host the event against all its European shoreline rivals: Marseilles, Lisbon and Naples. This event is all the more important for the city as it will be the first European edition of this prestigious regatta, which will benefit from the ideal wind conditions along Valencia’s shores. Local authorities have decided to entirely renovate the port for the occasion, as well as build a navigable canal to separate racing yachts from commercial vessels. Seating for 8,000 spectators and new hotels are also on the menu. But the most important will be media coverage of this event, which is worldwide today. In addition to the hundreds of millions of euros of immediate economic windfall, the results in terms of international visibility will produce a more long-term effect. All this should contribute to enlivening the area affected by the port, and thus the entire city by domino effect.

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