As part of FITUR, RNE radio program “No es un día cualquiera” de RNE entrevista a Ricard Santomà, dean of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi.
RNE: In 2019, 3.4 million tourists visited Spain. The tourism sector provided 12% of the GNP; it’s generating wealth, and employment is stable. Is Spain maintaining its position as a tourism powerhouse? That’s what the numbers seem to show…
Ricard Santomà: the numbers say that Spain is the second biggest tourist destination in terms of international arrivals, after France. Since the dawn of modern tourism, it’s always been in second or third place.
RNE: What sets Spain apart as a tourism destination?
RS: Spain is seen as a mature, well-established destination. Above all, we’ve used the sun and the beaches, our cultural diversity and all the activities that are available. Plus, Spain has known how to hold its own over time, and that isn’t easy. It has also taken advantage of its infrastructure to promote business tourism.
RNE: In spite of the record number of visitors, most people still seem to visit Spain for the sun and the beaches. How can we promote less typical tourist destinations and work towards greater quality, like Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Reyes Maroto has suggested?
RS: Trying to compete using low prices is dangerous; that only attracts a certain type of tourist who doesn’t spend much. We need to create experiences: tourists are no longer satisfied with sun and beaches; they come here looking for Facebook likes, and that requires constant innovation on the part of the destination. If we don’t look for a new way of doing things, Spain will end up sleeping on its laurels.
RNE: Are tourism businesses really ready for the impact of the technological transformation we’re going through?
RS: Technological transformation doesn’t mean that the way tourists buy things has changed because now they do so digitally. It means that now, destinations or businesses are managed using technology, and that really helps to reduce costs. If we can’t do that, we won’t be competitive.
RNE: Climate change is another one of tourism’s big challenges. How can the sector deal with this issue? How can we make the process of planning and purchasing a trip sustainable from beginning to end?
RS: I think this is the #1 issue for the tourism sector, which depends on nature, on landscapes. You can have a good hotel infrastructure and plenty of monuments, but nature is the most essential part. If you destroy that, you destroy the essence of the trip.
The most complicated part of a trip is the transportation. That’s when we emit the most CO2, so that’s the most polluting part. Things like longer vacations in one location might help us reduce our carbon footprint. The sector needs to learn how to calculate its carbon footprint, so we can be aware of our impact on the environment as travellers and act accordingly.
RNE: How have challenges like sustainability or digitalization made it into the classroom? In other words, is the training tourism students get now more complicated? Does it involve knowledge from other fields?
RS: Modern tourism professionals need a whole range of new skills; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. At the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi, we’re adding tech innovation and experience design to our programs. We’ve created a new Bachelor’s Degree in Innovation and Experience Design for the sector, which will give the students the training they need to take on the challenges the tourism sector will face in the future. We’re even including topics like applying artificial intelligence and robotics to the services sector!
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