|Title:||Issue Date: 14/08/00|
|Author:||Page Number: 39|
Regional tourist board looks to gain high-spending UK visitors as the market finds favour with specialists.Could Catalonia be the new Tuscany? It will be if David Miró has his way. The director of the Catalan Tourist Board is leading a charge to educate British tourists about the attractions of Spain’s northeastern corner – and it seems to be working. This year Miró forecasts that 1.2 million British tourists will take holidays in Catalonia, compared with 1.1 million last year.
The tourist board is aggressively marketing Catalonia to tour operators, agents and journalists via educationals, workshops and press trips.
“There’s more to Catalonia than 340 miles of coastline,” Miró said. “We would like to put Catalonia on the same level as Tuscany or Provence; people don’t go there on cheap holidays. We will always have mass tourism but it’s about time we concentrated on the big spenders; people interested in culture, gastronomy and activities, such as golf, walking and skiing.”
To this end, the tourist board is working closely with independent operators, who report increased demand for niche holidays in inland Catalonia and the picturesque villages on the northern Costa Brava. A spokeswoman from Magic Travel said: “Bookings have gone up by 20% on last year and we will probably expand our programme next year.”
Mundi Colour sales and marketing manager Tony Maniscalco said the operator plans to expand its programme of activity holidays, with the inclusion of gastronomy tours, fishing and cycling trips, to cater for the rise in clients who want more than a beach holiday.
“In the last three years, we’ve noticed at least 10%-15% growth per annum in sales to Catalonia,” he said.
The province has proved popular for Citalia’s Real Spain brand in its first year of business, especially the chic beach resort of Sitges, near Barcelona.
Real Spain commercial manager Chris Meyrick said: “Sitges is our fourth or fifth biggest seller in the whole of Spain. Catalonia accounts for about 15% of our Spanish business. We’ll be adding five or six hotels to our existing 15 in Catalonia for summer 2001.”
Individual Travellers Spain is adding 10 new properties to its portfolio of rural self-catering properties in Catalonia – an increase of about 10%.
Marketing director Owen Davies said: “We’ve benefited from the proliferation of low-cost flights to Barcelona, which has increased accessibility to UK market.”
Barcelona is by far the most popular destination in Catalonia. City-break specialist Cresta Holidays reported a year-on-year growth of 39% compared with last year.
Spain brand manager Ian Lomas said: “Barcelona has got everything you want in a city break.
“It has exceptional architecture and a strong reputation as a cultural centre. It’s a hotbed of art and artists, past and present, making it one of the leading cities in the world to visit from the UK. It’s accommodation is also unsurpassed.”
Meanwhile, mass-market tourism on the Costa Brava is steady and Costa Dorada is still thriving on the back of Universal Studios Port Aventura theme park.
JMC mainland Spain senior product manager Myles Hazebroek said: ” Costa Dorada has grown by 40% on last year. Costa Brava is a bit down on last year but we’re seeing most growth in Santa Susana, where there’s a lot of development.”
Airtours has found Costa Dorada is growing faster than any other region in Spain.
Mainland Spain marketing manager Laurence Marlor said: “We’re surprised at the level of demand for three and four-star accommodation in Costa Dorada.”
Summer 2001 prices at the four-star Club Dorada Palace in Salou lead in at £549 per person for a 14-night stay.
Thomson plans to expand its Small and Friendly programme in Sitges and the Costa Brava resorts of Palafrugell, Llafranc and Tossa de Mar.
Mainland Spain general manager Stephen Lane added: “The programme is popular in Costa Brava because there are family-run hotels and people can hire a car and go into the interior.”
A 14-night holiday at the Hotel El Cid in Sitges leads in at £375 per person.
Costa Brava: the Catalan Tourist Board is targeting upmarket sales to destinations such as Lloret de Mar
“We would like to put Catalonia on the same level as Tuscany or Provence”