SPAIN’S tourism authorities are calling on Australian travel agents to help the European country tackle over-tourism issues in larger cities such as Barcelona, imploring travel sellers to encourage clients to book itineraries that explore more of the country over a longer time period.
The comments from Spain Tourism Board (STB) follow a renewed call from Barcelona’s Deputy Mayor Janet Sanz to put a cap on cruise ship visits to the country’s largest city due to the threat of continued environmental damage.
Lambasting cruise tourism this week, the senior Barcelonan politician claimed “you will be walking and all of a sudden there’s this mass of people who appear together in the street…they don’t consume anything and they don’t have an economic impact, they just wander for four or five hours and leave.”
But speaking with travelBulletin this week, STB Director for Southeast Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Monica Sanchez, said there was a great opportunity for Aussie travellers to be upsold by agents on cruise trips to include a wider range of land options and connecting cruises.
“There are a range of cruises and tours on offer in Spain and it’s a great opportunity for travel agents to upsell a land extension for customers that are especially keen on cruising,” Sanchez said.
“This offers agents more commissionable product and further promotes more opportunities for the client to see the best of the country, furthermore there are many opportunities to enjoy a cruise and explore the Mediterranean from Barcelona’s port.
“In fact, Barcelona is a popular starting point for cruises to other destinations, including the Balearic Islands,” she added.
When asked about the balancing act needed for cities like Barcelona to maintain both a strong flow of tourists from markets like Australia, as well as protection from over-tourism concerns, Sanchez insisted that the Spanish tourism hub is only one in a string of popular travel destinations around the world seeking a similar compromise.
“Barcelona is not the first European city to look at solutions to ensure the city retains its character and desirability whilst also aiming to strike a positive balance when it comes to considering tourism, environmental impact and the comfort of the local community,” she argued.
“Venice, Amsterdam, Bruges, Dubronik and Santorini are just a few of the European cities that have reviewed cruise activity at their ports, and the aim is to achieve long-term, sustainable tourism that considers local social, economic and environmental factors – limiting daily cruise arrivals would ultimately also offer tourists an enhanced and more authentic visitor experience by minimising crowds and reducing waiting times across the city.”
While in relative terms Spain remains a small cruise market for Australian travellers, the country only last month appointed a local agency, Helm, suggesting that Spain is preparing to get more serious about what value it can extract from travellers Down Under.
Of the 436,000 Australians that visited Spain before the pandemic, more than 15,000 arrived by cruise ship, with the majority of Australians staying on average between four and seven nights.
Speaking about its allure and why Spain should resonate with more Aussies, Sanchez said its diversity, art and culture, rich history, world renowned food and wine and natural experiences would be the primary drivers of visitation from this part of the world.
“There is so much to see and do in Spain so we encourage Australians who are considering a cruise holiday to stay a few days in Spain either before or after their cruise to discover the best Spain has to offer,” she advised.