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2011 tourist perspectives for Catalonia and Barcelona are “exceptional” and records could be broken

Catalonia’s International Tourism Fair is currently taking place and will run until this Sunday. Barcelona broke all records in 2010 regarding visitors. 7.3 million tourists visited the Catalan capital and there were 14 million hotel nights booked by visitors. The Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, who is in charge of tourism, expects 2011 for Catalonia to be “exceptional”.


09 April 2011 07:19 PM


ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- 2010 brought a new tourist record for Barcelona, and perspectives for 2011 are even better. The private and public consortium to promote Barcelona tourism, \u2018Turisme de Barcelona\u2019, released the data for last year and also its forecast for 2011. For Catalonia as a whole, the current year could be \u201Cexceptional\u201D, stated Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, Francesc Xavier Mena, who is in charge of tourist affairs. Mena inaugurated the \u2018Saló Internacional de Turisme de Catalunya\u2019 (the \u2018Catalonia International Tourism Fair\u2019), which will be taking place until Sunday April 10th. This 20th edition of the fair is held at Montjuïc in Barcelona and will bring together more than 1,100 exhibitors from 60 different countries and up to 190,000 participants. The International Tourism Fair\u2019s President Raimon Martínez Fraile pointed out the good moment the tourism industry is experiencing in Catalonia and its role \u201Cas one of the engines of the Catalan economy\u201D. The good outlook for 2011 is mainly due to three reasons: the large increase in visitors from emerging markets (such as Russia), the economic recovery of the countries sending most of the tourists (Germany, France and the United Kingdom), and the current instability in other southern Mediterranean countries, which has made tourists looking for the sun to look for more stable environments.

The Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, who is also in charge of tourism, Francesc Xavier Mena, explained the factors that are contributing to the record breaking tourist numbers in Catalonia. Mena said that the number of tourists coming from emerging markets had seen a \u201Cspectacular\u201D increase. This has given some tour operators \u201Ctwo digit increases\u201D, said Mena. Russia is becoming an increasingly important market for Catalonia. The Catalan Minister is said to have contacted the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to speed up the visa issuing process for Russian tourists. Mena added that another factor for the increase in tourist numbers in Catalonia was the economic recovery of tourist markets, namely Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Finally, there is an \u201Cunfortunate\u201D factor, as Mena qualified, which is the instability in southern Mediterranean countries. The conflicts, riots, and protests are bad factors for attracting tourists. The situation has forced people looking for the Mediterranean sun, who otherwise might have chosen the cheap prices offered in North African countries, to now chose European countries, such as Catalonia. Catalonia is \u201Ca tourist power without competition\u201D in the immediate neighbouring zone, stated Mena.

Catalonia\u2019s good perspectives for 2011

The perspectives for 2011 are \u201Cexceptional\u201D, according to the Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, who is also in charge of Tourism. This is a \u201Ctractor industry\u201D for the Catalan economy, he stressed. The President of the \u2018Saló Internacional de Turisme de Catalunya\u2019, Raimon Martínez Fraile, said that the tourism sectors \u201Care making things happen\u201D and it continues being one of the \u201Cengines of the Catalan economy\u201D, despite the recession and the bad results in 2009, when 5 million visitors were lost due to the global economic crisis. Catalonia will continue being \u201Cthe showcase\u201D for Spanish tourism, added Fraile. He added that tourism represents 12% of Spain\u2019s annual GDP, a sector that Catalonia is a market leader in.

However, both Mena and Fraile pointed out several measures to consolidate the positive trend. Fraile thinks Catalonia \u201Cshould look for quality and a price increase\u201D, leaving the cheapest offers for other destinations. Catalonia\u2019s \u201Cbeach and sun\u201D model would still be valid, but with greater quality in order to face the challenges that countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco have. These countries \u201Clegitimately\u201D drop prices as their main hook to get visitors, explained Fraile. Catalonia cannot do this. He reminded that, after the United States, Spain is the second country in the world where tourists spend the most and Catalonia leads in Spain, despite being the fourth country in the number of visitors. Tourists spend 96 euros per day and per person in Spain, a figure very close to the 101 euros in the United States and far from the figures seen in France, with 78 euros per person and per day. In fact, despite the 2009 drop in the number of visitors, the 57 million tourists who came to Spain spent more money than the 62 million of the previous year.

Mena also added the importance of improving quality. He explained that an important challenge is to unmatch tourism with a particular season , in order to have high numbers of tourists all year long. Mena said that a priority now is to increase promotional efforts in North America and Asia, as well as in other emerging markets. The General Director for Tourism of the Catalan Government, Marian Muro, explained that a new tourist office in the United States will be opened to promote Catalonia in the US market. Muro sees great opportunities in the United States, as one million tourists travel from that country to Catalonia every year \u201Cwithout any kind of special promotion\u201D, she said.

Barcelona\u2019s record year

2011 is expected to be an \u201Cexceptional\u201D year for tourism in Catalonia, but in its capital, Barcelona, it is expected to be a record year. 2010 was already a record year for Barcelona: 7.3 million people visited the city and there were more than 14 million hotel rooms booked. Never before had Barcelona registered those figures. It was in fact the  European big city with the largest increase in the number of tourists in 2010. However, 2011 looks likely to be even better, stressed Joan Gaspart, the President of \u2018Turisme de Barcelona\u2019 (a public private consortium to promote Barcelona). The data from January and February is better than 2010, and hotel owners have the feeling that March was also better, without having the official figures yet. Despite the good results, hotel occupation is a bit lower than other years, due to the increase in hotel offers. Furthermore, Gaspart explained that some hotel projects will close, however there are plans for others to open.

Tourists came from all corners of the globe. After having increased by 13.17%, France became the first sender of visitors with 567.287 tourists, or 7.95% of the total. Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States are also one of the leading countries of origin.

The 20th Catalonia International Tourism Fair

With these good results, the 20th edition of the \u2018Saló Internacional del Turisme de Catalunya\u2019 is expected to be a success. Organisers hope to see 190,000 visitors this year including specialists and the general public,. These figures will surpass last year\u2019s attendance. The international fair runs from April 7th to 10th. 1,120 exhibitors from 60 different countries have set their stands in the 43,000 square metres available in the Montjuïc venue of Fira de Barcelona, Barcelona\u2019s Trade Fair. Seven countries are participating for the first time in the fair: Brazil, Cyprus, Colombia, Denmark, Syria, Mauritania and Tunisia. This year\u2019s guest country was Algeria and the guest city Bilbao. The fair includes several types of tourist activities and themes. In this edition, the Sports Tourism and the Experience Tourism had their own special area for the first time.


  • Tourists in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by O. Campuzano)

  • Tourists in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by O. Campuzano)
Video report on the tourist outlook for 2011 (by L. Pous / K. Whalley)