This morning, the Andalusian Minister of Tourism, Trade and Sports, Luciano Alonso; the President of the Provincial Government of Málaga and the Málaga-Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Elías Bendodo; the Director of the Spanish Tourist Office (OET) in Zurich, Yolanda Martínez; the President of the Schweizerischen Reisebüro-Verband (SRV), Marcel Hausheer; and the Manager of SRV, Walter Kunz, attended the closing ceremony of the Swiss Travel Agents’ Annual Conference, which was followed by a press conference.
Our President thanked SRV for choosing Málaga for their annual conference and wished all attendees a pleasant stay in town: “I hope you have a great stay and fruitful work sessions.”
Then, Mr Bendodo mentioned those organisations that have contributed to the organisation of this event in Málaga: Empresa Pública para la Gestión del Turismo y del Deporte de Andalucía, Turespaña, suppliers, and collaborators. “Without our invaluable help, this event wouldn’t have been as successful as it was,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of this kind of conference being held in Málaga, “for they are tools for the objective analysis of the tourism industry and for reflection on how to address the future.” Moreover, it makes a golden opportunity for attendees to gain first-hand knowledge of the wide range of products available in Málaga, since they can only sell them effectively if they are acquainted with them.
According to Mr Bendodo, the Málaga travel industry has shown that it is alive and kicking, and growing stronger: “The strengthening of the brand name ‘Costa del Sol’ and the differentiation of our travel destination, based on quality, authenticity, and diversity, are two of the areas we’ll keep working on to maintain the leadership that makes us different from our competitors.”
“At the Málaga-Costa del Sol Tourist Board we’re aware of the importance of market diversification to stop depending on traditional markets. In this sense, Switzerland can be a crucial market,” Mr Bendodo remarked. In fact, the Swiss market has experienced significant growth over the past few years, in part thanks to the work done by travel agencies, tour operators, and airlines.
To conclude, our President said he hoped SRV would choose the Costa del Sol again for its annual conference in the future, “for this would mean the conference we are closing today has been successful.” “Moreover, experience teaches us that, whenever a travel agents’ conference is held on the Costa del Sol, the number of visitors from the corresponding outbound market rises significantly. Let’s hope this is true with this conference too. I believe it will,” he said.
From January to September 2011, there were 143,656 airport arrivals from Switzerland, i.e. 19,070 more than in Jan-Sept 2010 (+15.31%). As to hotel guests for the same period, their number went up by 10.96%, with a total 28,322 Swiss travellers staying in hotels on the Costa del Sol in the first nine months of 2011. These travellers accounted for 97,449 overnight stays, i.e. 20.75% more than in the first nine months of 2010. The main outbound airports are Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. In 2010, they all grew at a spectacular rate of 38.47%.
The main reasons why the Swiss go abroad are holidays, getaways, desire to experience something new, or need to be in contact with nature. “I know they can find all this in our travel destination,” Mr Bendodo exclaimed.
The most popular type of accommodation among Swiss travellers is hotels (61.5%), followed by private homes. In 2010, their main reasons for travelling where holidays and leisure (83.9%), business (9.1%), and personal reasons (6%). As to means of transport, 85.14% prefer planes, whereas 13.88% choose road transport.
Their main activities are shopping, party going, leisure and entertainment, and beach going. With regard to travel budget, the average is quite high: €995 or €100.56 a day.
The head of the OET in Zurich, Yolanda Martínez, thanked the Tourist Board and Turismo de Andalucía, “for being so kind and opening the doors to your home, showing us Málaga, the place hosting this annual conference, in all its beauty.”
According to Ms Martínez, the Spanish tourism authorities have been present in Switzerland via OETs for 30 years. This is proof of Spain’s interest in this country as a travel market. Currently, Spain’s main tourism agency in Switzerland is the OET in Zurich, “where you can get all the information you need, as well as cooperation in promotional activities,” the office’s director explained.
In relative terms, Switzerland accounts for about 2% of all foreign visitors to Spain. Likewise, Swiss travellers have a 2% share in the total tourist expenditure. In absolute terms, 1,158,000 Swiss citizens visited Spain in 2010, with 120,000 of them coming to Andalusia –the fifth most visited Spanish destination in this outbound market.
Being a mature market, Switzerland stable, although this year there was a rise in arrivals over 2010, and the Tourist Board is satisfied with the results. Despite its small population, it is an important market due to high travel rates, which results in significant expenditure. Moreover, Swiss travellers tend to like the places they visit, respecting and admiring local culture. They have stable habits, return to their favourite destinations, have a high purchasing power, and appreciate quality products and charming or peculiar places. In sum, they embody the ideal traveller, and this is why all destinations are intent on wooing them.
According to the Director of the OET in Zurich, the Swiss have long experience in travelling, which means they are not easy to please. They appreciate good things and reject those that fail to comply with their quality standards. “Quality is of utmost importance to them. When catering to them, Spanish destinations must offer a wide range of products and excellent service. As a reward, they will get the best visitors on Earth,” Ms Martínez said.
The Swiss are familiar with Andalusia, but Ms Martínez believes there is still development potential, given the wide variety and quality of the products on offer. “There’s no such thing as something that you can’t get in Andalusia. There’s something for every visitor,” she commented.
“Proof of this variety,” Ms Martínez went on, “is Málaga City, which is not only the gateway to the Costa del Sol (and this is how it was known for many years) but also a destination where you can find art, cityscapes, shops, great food, a great ambiance, and world-class services. If you come once, you’ll probably come back.”
Finally, the OET Director invited those who had never been to Málaga before to explore the area: “Málaga should be a preferred destination in your catalogues –and in your hearts.”
The Andalusian Minister of Tourism, Trade and Sports, Luciano Alonso, addressed the Swiss attendees: “Our homeland is the perfect destination, not only because of the great variety of segments we cater to and the products on offer but also because of experience and quality. A single territory and a multiplicity of choices that can make it a top-rate international destination.”
According to Mr Alonso, “The region has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years to become a modern, attractive, and safe travel destination where successful events like this one can be held and the most demanding tourists can find what they want.”
The SRV Annual Conference, he went on, “is a great opportunity for the travel industry, gathering more than 200 specialists in the Swiss market and contributing to economic recovery.”
“The 70,000 travellers staying at Málaga’s hotels from January to September 2011 are proof of such recovery. With a 6.5% growth rate (+15.2% for overnight stays), Andalusia is the fourth most visited destination in Spain,” the Minister told the audience.
“We want to improve this performance and maybe one day become the favourite destination in the Swiss outbound market. To achieve this we need your help, so let me ask you for it now that I can,” Mr Alonso said.
“We’re aware of the importance of your work as influencers, so we want to show you all the things your clients would miss if they didn’t choose our destination,” he added. Then he invited travel agents to “use these work days to become aware of the role you play as instruments for economic recovery. Let’s not forget that the travel industry is a key sector to the creation of wealth. In Andalusia, it accounts for 11% of the GDP.” He also urged them to think about their contributions in this regard: “Explore new approaches, reinvent yourselves, join efforts in this common goal.”
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