Founder and CEO of Destinia
“There are some essential factors that Spanish companies don’t know how to take advantage of at the strategic and international level”
What do you think of Spain’s brand in tourism and other spheres?
The Spanish brand was damaged three or four years ago by the crisis. But recently it has improved, although Spaniards themselves don’t rate many aspects of that brand very highly, and that’s what makes me sad.
Do we need a tourism strategy?
We need a tourism strategy, a strategy totally focused on innovation, from the logo to expansion abroad. This is what I see from the outside. There are some essential factors that Spanish companies don’t know how to take advantage of at the strategic and international level, although I don’t know why that is. I really don’t understand it. There are things that Spain markets abroad that have little interest. I’m going to give two examples. Spanish gastronomy is marketed widely to the outside world, but for many countries it holds little interest. Perhaps it is of interest to Europe or the United States, but not in Asia or the Middle East. Example two: football. It is Spain’s oil, yet the country doesn’t know how to take advantage of its potential abroad. There is a lot of interest in football in Asia and the Middle East. But here we are kind of embarrassed to say that there is tourism in football. The museum in Spain with the second-highest number of visitors after the Prado is the Real Madrid Museum. And Barcelona is the cradle of international football right now.
Who should design this tourism policy? Companies, the government, the autonomous regions?
At the public-sector level, what is needed are fewer laws. Both central and regional governments overuse the law. There is civil war between them as to who does the most, who makes the most laws, who imposes the most prohibitions, who issues the most fines… But when it comes to helping out, they don’t do a great deal, in particular when it comes to foreign trade. The focus is placed on certain countries and meanwhile the market is not open to other societies with more potential. Take China, for example. Within five or six years it will be the number one country for outbound tourism worldwide. I work in this sphere.
You’re in the click business, clearly.
The click is everything. When we started in 2001 there were three of us working here. Now there are two hundred of us. The first time we made a website about hotels in Spain, we were reported to the Civil Guard and the National Police because hotel owners didn’t want their establishments to be on the Internet. They were afraid. The mindset has changed. Those same hotel owners now pay us to feature them on our page. Many agents emerged, and everything got cheaper, and there were lots of offers. I can sell a hotel on a motorway in A Coruña to a Japanese guy who didn’t know it existed, while the hotel owner cannot reach that Japanese market. The range has grown thanks to innovation. Today, everything in the world of tourism is done online. Some 60 percent of hotel bookings for Paris are currently made online. Here, figures for the local market don’t reach 40 percent.
What should be done to promote it?
In Palma de Mallorca—the cradle of world tourism, where all the biggest international enterprises are present—there is a very good technology center. And how many programmers are produced by the University of Palma de Mallorca each year? Fifteen. They all have to be brought in from abroad. You need a top football academy to produce a decent football team.