Q) In terms of inbound tourism from the GCC region; which are currently Spain’s largest source markets and which are showing the strongest growth?
UAE is the country with the larger number of visitors to Spain followed closely by KSA. In 2016 we received 85 thousand tourists from the UAE and 65 thousand from KSA. These figures represent an increase of 57% and 10% respectively.
In terms of expenditure, we have seen increments in the total expenditure and in the average expenditure per person. We have seen also an increment in the length of stay. The only negative result is the average daily expenditure in KSA that deceased by 9% but it is compensated by the increment of tourists and length of stay.
From Qatar we do not have figures and from Kuwait the latest are from 2014 and at that time we received 20,000 tourists. This figure probably has doubled (like in UAE and KSA) from then, but we cannot be sure.
Q) Which Spanish destinations/attractions are most popular with GCC visitors, and are there any “new” destinations that you are promoting?
Barcelona, Madrid and Costa del Sol/Andalucía are the most visited destinations. But in Madrid and Barcelona most of the GCC tourists just visit the city. They don´t go to the nearby cities as Toledo, Segovia and Avila in Madrid or Gerona and Tarragona (with Port Aventura and Ferrari Land Theme Park) in Barcelona. This is something that just happens in the GCC market. From other countries nobody going to Madrid will miss Segovia or Toledo, or Gerona when going to Barcelona. No way! This is due to the lack of knowledge and our marketing is aiming to increase the knowledge.
Other destinations that we are promoting are the cities of Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Malaga or Ronda in Andalucía. For honeymooners, we promote Canary Islands (Tenerife and Gran Canaria) as they are among the most beautiful islands in the world and are very appropriate for honeymooners.
Q) Is Spain see a rise in niche tourism from the GCC, and if so, which sectors and interests?
At this moment we are not working yet in niche markets. That will come later.
Q) The major Gulf airlines have been adding more flights to Spain in recent months and years; what impact are these carriers having on inbound tourism?
There has been an increase in the capacity of Emirates, and an increase in the frequency of flights from Etihad, from four to seven weekly. And all of them are doing quite well. Qatar Airways announced at the Arabian Travel Market a new route to Málaga/Costa del Sol, but they haven’t finalised the date. All these increments make it easier to travel to Spain for GCC travellers. It also helps tourists from Asian markets to reach Spain.
Q) What is the Spanish Tourist Office doing to educate the GCC travel trade, and what are your key promotional activities in the region?
We do organise fam trips and presentations for travel agencies. Next year we are going to implement an online learning platform but what I want to pinpoint is that we have created a web page for this market. The contents are tailor made to fit the need of the market and it comes both, in English and Arabic. This portal is very useful for travel consultants as it is very easy to navigate, it has just has the information needed and will help them to advise the clients and to plan the trips. I strongly recommend travel agents to visit it: www.spain.info/gccf/en and www.spain.info/gcc/ar
Q) What are your targets for the GCC inbound market, in terms of arrivals, length-of-stay, tourism receipts etc?
We expect to increase the number of visitors and the expenditure by around 20% to 30% (depending on the country) by 2020. Also we expect that by 2020 these new cities (Toledo, Segovia, Gerona, Málaga) and the Canary Islands will be consolidated as destinations for the GCC and we will start to promote other regions of Spain as the green and mountainous areas of the North (Country Basque, Asturias).