Face to face: Vicenç Capdevila, director, Catalan Tourism Board, UK & Ireland

How is the UK market performing for Catalonia? 

A fishing village in Catalonia
A fishing village in Catalonia

The UK market is incredibly strong. In 2015 we welcomed more than 1.8 million British tourists to Catalonia; from January to April of this year, more than 420,000 visitors from the UK – a rise of 10.8% from the same period last year.

What destinations are popular and why?

Our Catalan capital, Barcelona remains a firm favourite for the UK market and the city is one of the most visited in Europe. Holidaymakers travel to Barcelona for its history, culture, beaches, gastronomy and of course, its famous Gaudi architecture. Barcelona also offers a wealth of options for business travellers with state of the art infrastructure and diverse meeting and event spaces.  The Costa Brava is another hugely popular destination for British tourists thanks to its sheer beauty, the variety of activities on offer and its welcoming people. The Costa Brava is home to more than 160km of Mediterranean beaches and some of the safest Blue Flag beaches in Europe. This stretch of coast is a foodie’s paradise with one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred chefs in Spain. Visitors can also savour some of Europe’s most superb wines whilst in the area. For culture vultures, the Costa Brava is synonymous with Dalí country and is home to three fascinating museums devoted to him. Alternatively, the “Golden Coast”, the Costa Daurada is a popular choice for British families, one of the biggest attractions being Port Aventura theme park outside of Salou. Meanwhile the Penedès, located just 30 short minutes from Barcelona and Tarragona, offers a tranquil countryside setting, and is another common choice for UK visitors, particularly those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a few days. The Penedès region is also a popular choice for those interested in wine, famous for being one of Europe’s prime enotourism centres and it is internationally recognised for its wineries and cava producers.

Vicenç Capdevila, director, Catalan Tourism Board, UK & Ireland
Vicenç Capdevila, director, Catalan Tourism Board, UK & Ireland

Barcelona is well known and very popular with the British market – but how are you encouraging Brits to explore more of the region? What are you recommending and why?

Of course; Barcelona is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits but there is so much more to see, do and explore in Catalonia. Our job is to encourage visitors across the region as a whole and one of the ways in which we promote the lesser-known destinations is through promotional activities. We also organise press trips, fam trips, attend business to business workshops and organise our own workshops to connect Catalan companies with the British tourism trade sector. As a team we also attend different trade and tourism shows as well as allocate spend for advertising campaigns. As for our personal recommendations; for those who like being active and outdoors, we would suggest visiting the Terres de Lleida and Pyrenees area which offers a wealth of different activities including hiking, biking and paragliding. Terres de l’Ebre is one of the most off-the-beaten-path destinations in Catalonia despite being one of the biggest wetlands in Spain and is great for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. For foodies we recommend spending time on the Costa Brava and budding sommeliers will enjoy exploring the Costa Daurada and its 5 designations of origin for wine.

What are you doing to develop more visitors off the back of the cruise market?

We are collaborating with all the major cruise companies to promote not only day trips to Barcelona and the Catalan cities close by, but also the possibilities of extending a holiday in wider Catalonia. This July we are also taking 30 travel agents out to Catalonia to gain invaluable first-hand knowledge and, the agents will have the opportunity to explore 6-star cruise ship, Seven Seas Navigator when it docks in Barcelona.

How important is the UK travel trade when it comes to selling Catalonia and what training and incentives do you have in place?

The Catalan Tourist Board views active engagement with the travel trade as the most important element in the success of advancing targeted visitor arrivals to Catalonia. The UK travel trade plays a vital role when it comes to selling Catalonia due to their strong relationships with core clientele and their ability to facilitate the decision making process. Throughout the first 6 months of 2016, we also attended several travel trade roadshows across the UK in order to engage with key figures and present Catalonia as a region full of diversity in its tourism offering.

What’s new in Catalonia that the travel trade should know about?

New for this year, Catalonia has been declared European Region of Gastronomy 2016 – a testament to our vibrant culinary scene. And, of course with good food comes good wine and the Catalan winery, Torres received the prize for the ‘Most Innovative Tourist Experience’ at the Wine Tourism Awards 2016, organised by Drinks International. For fans of the hit TV show Game of Thrones, Girona was transformed into the real life Westeros this year. Thanks to a number of newly launched tours, visitors now have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Arya Stark and Jaime Lannister and imagine they are wandering the Seven Kingdoms as they weave their way through the charming tangle of Girona’s cobbled streets. Next year is an exciting year for us as we open the doors to Ferrari Land, set within PortAventura Park. It’s the largest project in the history of PortAventura Resort and will cover an area of 75,000 square metres. The highlight of the park will be the fastest and highest vertical roller coaster in Europe. Finally, a new metro line has recently been added to the network to make getting between Barcelona city and airport easier.

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