In his very first interview since coming to Dublin to take over as Director of the Spanish Tourism Office, Gonzalo Ceballos Watling outlined to ITTN’s News and Features Editor, Neil Steedman, how Spain is striving to help tour operators and individual travel agents to package and sell unique Spanish experiences ‘beyond’ the traditional ones such as sun and beach holidays and the major cultural cities.
Following a background in mechanical engineering and working in the Spanish Government’s patents and legal departments, Gonzalo Ceballos has spent the past five years with Turespaña in Madrid as Deputy Director-General of Tourism Development and Sustainability.
After I express admiration for the “I Need Spain” promotional tagline, which is so successfully connecting with Spain’s visitors through social media and utilising visitors themselves to promote Spain and its wide diversity of tourism attractions, he modestly admits to “being in the room” when the decision was made between adopting “I Need Spain” rather than the other final choice, “Live Spain”.
From his previous job title it was obvious that ‘tourism development’ and ‘sustainability’ would be factors high on his list of priorities, but ‘diversity’ and ‘co-operative ventures’ quickly proved to be on an equal par with them. “Of course we need to keep promoting our traditional tourism products such as sun and beach holidays, our cultural cities and pilgrimage walks,” he said, “and to keep improving them – for example, by developing more family rooms – but we also need to promote not just ‘products’ but a variety of co-ordinated ‘experiences’ that capture the essence of Spain.
“For example, if a particular location offers watersports courses that run from 12.00 to 3.00pm it does not make sense if the local restaurants are all open from 1.00 to 4.00pm. So we are developing ‘co-operative product groups’ throughout the country in which local authorities, protected areas, attractions, activities, restaurants, accommodations, etc all work together to offer diverse packages that can be easily promoted and sold by the Irish travel industry – by tour operators, travel agents consortia and individual agents.
“Spain welcomes 52 million visitors a year and they stay an average of 10 nights, so I often remind restaurateurs that they have 1,560 million occasions a year to impress them!
“Spain also has the highest bio-diversity in Europe – 26% of its area is protected in some way for its fauna and flora, and the country is a paradise for birdwatching – and we are making it easy for tourists to experience all this.”
Gonzalo Ceballos, Director, Spanish Tourist Office – Dublin
(The full interview will be published in the September issue of Irish Travel Trade News.)