Spain Finds Recovery and Preservation in Tourism

Spain Finds Recovery and Preservation in TourismSpain Finds Recovery and Preservation in Tourism

Tourism accounts for 25% of all the new jobs that Spain created last year, and jobs are especially prized in the economically strapped nation.

“Tourism is a state policy in Spain,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, stressing that the sector accounts for 10.9 percent of Spain’s GDP and generates one in nine jobs. “The top priority in Spain during this term and the next is economic growth and job creation.”

In January, Rajoy was one of the recipients of an open letter from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). The letter was sent to heads of state around the world requesting that they publicly acknowledge travel and tourism’s economic importance to their respective countries, Travel Pulse reported.

As the third most visited country in the world, and the second in foreign earnings from tourism, Spain does not really need reminding.

Happily, Spain’s economic fortunes have begun to turn and tourism has played a big part in that. Last year, Spain received 65 million international tourist arrivals — a record, reflecting the destination’s highest growth (+7 percent) in the last 14 years. While that is great news for a recovering economy, there is a danger in these numbers as well.

Spain’s visitors are overwhelmingly beach tourists who come for the Costa del Sol. Spain has fine beaches, but tourism must also promote and preserve the cultural richness of its host destinations, lest they get lost behind the beach balls.

Ibiza, the Balearic resort island, has gotten a lot of tourism attention recently because of the success of hotels catering to young beach travelers. But according to the results of a recent survey, conducted by One of a Kind Villas, some 58 percent of the 380 people surveyed agreed with the statement that, “There’s more to Ibiza than clubbing and parties.”

Indeed there is. Ibiza is one of 15 members of the World Heritage Cities of Spain Group, which was created in 1993 to preserve and promote the “vast cultural heritage” of its 15 member destinations.

In 1999, UNESCO declared four sites in Ibiza as World Heritage sites: the walled city of Dalt Vila (16th century), the Phoenician-Punic Necropolis of Puig des Molins, Sa Calera (Carthaginian town of VIII BC) and the prairies of Posidonia oceanica (the seabed in the Ses Salines Natural Park).

 Using Hotels to Protect History

Spain’s system of Paradores has demonstrated a great model for preserving history by giving legacy buildings a new vitality as lodging and restaurants. In building the system of more than 90 Paradores throughout Spain, the Spanish government converted castles, convents, villas, monasteries, and farmhouses into hotels. Today, Paradores offer some 10,000 rooms, about two-thirds of them in towns and the rest in rural settings.

Not a Paradore, the Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, a property in the Duero region, opened in 2012 after a complete restoration of a historical abbey. The property took the idea of the Paradore to make a five-star luxury hotel where history and culture can be served to the senses, as well as to the mind. The restoration earned a Europa Nostra Award from the EU for its conservation of cultural heritage. The abbey, which dates from 1146, was transformed into a luxury 30-room hotel.

The Refectorio, once the abbey’s dining hall, is now under the direction of Andoni Luis Aduriz, one of Spain’s leading chefs whose Mugaritz restaurant in San Sebastian has two Michelin stars. In addition to the Refectorio, guests dine outdoors in the Cloisters courtyard. The estate’s former stable will open this summer as a 10,000 square foot wellness spa. The hotel offers butler service, and is the first European hotel to provide Google Glass for guests’ use during their stay.