Positive results for the Tourist Board at WTM

Positive results for the Tourist Board at WTMThe President of the Málaga-Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Elías Bendodo, has considered the Tourist Board’s presence at London’s World Travel Market (WTM) to have been very positive. In general, the Tourist Board delegation and the Costa del Sol travel professionals who went to London were optimistic after the event. According to our President, the British travel market is expected to grow in 2012. In fact, from January to September 2011, there were 6.25% more arrivals at Málaga Airport, 8.9% more hotel guests, and 10.7% more overnight stays.

Mr Bendodo maintained at a press conference he held today at the Tourist Board’s headquarters that these prospects were very important, for the UK is our first out-of-Spain outbound market. However, he said, there is some scepticism about the winter season. “This encourages us to work hard, with stronger determination, to fight peak travel. The crisis has forced British travellers to go abroad only once a year, and they tend to do so in the summer, so it’s only natural that the low season is experiencing a downturn,” he pointed out.

Our President emphasised that 2012 would be better than 2011, which in turn has been better than 2010. Also, we reviewed the products introduced at WTM to promote off-peak travel.

One of such products is food. “Tastes of Costa del Sol-Málaga” was the event organised to showcase Málaga’s culinary heritage among specialist journalists and travel agents. The event was a huge success. Likewise, “Living Costa del Sol” was the event held to offer British residents the empty houses available on the Costa del Sol in a tourism-property initiative launched by the Tourist Board and the Málaga Association of Builders and Developers. “They are giving us all we need,” Mr Bendodo remarked.

Our President sounded optimistic at the press conference: “Working hard, we can secure a larger share of the British market in winter. We began working on this even before WTM. They are on their way to recovery, and we must take advantage of this.”

The meetings with big tour operators like TUI or Thomas Cook revealed that everybody is interested in making the winter season work for the Costa del Sol. To accomplish this, UK-based tour operators demanded specific, segment-oriented travel products (couples, families, elites, holidaymakers, and so on) that earned them competitive advantages and exclusivity. These products will be the basis of their winter programmes for the Costa del Sol.

Mr Bendodo believes this will not be a problem: “The Costa del Sol is one of the travel destinations with the widest range of travel products on offer in the world. What’s more, traveller security is an issue, and so tour operators prefer destinations like ours to those in, say, Northern Africa to design their packages.” “However,” he went on, “we must put tour operators into context, considering the whole picture of Costa del Sol travel industry. They just account for a small share of the whole market (only 135,000 airport arrivals last summer).” Elías Bendodo and Arturo Bernal

At WTM we were also able to check for ourselves that airline-related retail networks are interested in actions raising the flow of tourists in winter. “They want to keep their flights booked up and this is beneficial to us,” Mr Bendodo summarised. Other networks (online agencies, retailers, etc.) also showed interest in the winter season. They talked about positive results and soaring numbers for 2012.

During the fair, Barrhead Travel, Monarch, Jet2, British Airways Holidays, and British Airways CityFlyer all informed us they wanted to work with the Tourist Board in the identification of new niche markets and thus accomplish better results in winter.

At WTM we learnt that the average expenditure for British tourists is lower than for other countries. “This should encourage us to keep working on the brand name ‘Costa del Sol,’ adding values that induce tourists to spend more. We are competing for quality, not for prices,” Mr Bendodo said.

In line with this, he announced the creation of new products ahead of demand with the aim of raising tourist expenditure. For instance, the application to host the 2013 annual conference of the travel consortium Advantage, Málaga being the only Spanish city to have applied for this event. Similarly, the World Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Summit (WREST) announced they were considering the Costa del Sol as the place to hold their annual conference in 2014.

The work done by Tourist Board staff and representatives of the Association of Hoteliers of the Costa del Sol (AEHCOS) at WTM has led to closer relations with TripAdvisor and HolidayCheck. Both websites (visited by over 3 million users a week) will now optimise the presence of Costa del Sol-based hotels.

In February 2012, BA CityFlyer (the division of British Airways operating flights to and from London City airport) is launching a shock campaign. Conversely, the Tourist Board will be promoting our travel destination at this airport and in several shopping centres, focusing on weekend getaways, golf, Marbella, and health and wellness.

Finally, the cruise sector got praise, but we need to strengthen pre- and post-cruise stays in Málaga.

Mr Bendodo’s conclusions after WTM are:

– Overall, our presence has been highly positive.

– We have succeeded in highlighting food as a cross-segment tourist attraction and a tool to promote off-peak travel.

– We have introduced a new product, residential homes, thanks to the “Living Costa del Sol” initiative.

– We are doing a good job in the British market. Moreover, the bright prospects give us hope, encouraging us to keep working and offer better products and services.

– Our staff and businessmen are satisfied with the contacts made, which could result in business for 2012 and beyond (2013 and 2014).

– In its commitment to the promotion and growing professionalisation of the local travel industry, the Tourist Board is now beginning to work on the next big event: Fitur. Fitur is a key event; we must bear in mind the domestic market is still our main client, so we must do a great job here again.

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