We’re currently going through a complicated economic moment both in Brazil and the rest of the world.
The European economy is slowly recovering, with Spain, the country that is leading this tendency, having growth of 3.2% in 2015.
In January 2014 we opened the office of the Catalan Tourism Agency in São Paulo, Brazil. There are already 12 tourism promotion offices in the world for the Catalonia region, the capital of which is Barcelona. Since the start of the severe crisis in September 2008 the tourism sector has never stopped growing in Catalonia. The Spanish outbound market to Catalonia reduced over the years during which the crisis worsened, but this drop was compensated for by the markets in which for years the province had been investing in promotion, like Russia, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.
Tourism has to be thought of as a long-term investment and any investment in promoting tourism has to be diversified to include different markets so that occasional declines in the number of arrivals coming from one market can be compensated for by arrivals from others. Tourism is a sector that helps promote other sectors of the economy, like food. I’ll give you as an example of this a recent trip I took to Florianopolis (Santa Catarina), a beautiful Brazilian island that I had the pleasure to visit a short time ago. While having dinner in this city what caught my attention was the variety of beers that are produced in the south of Brazil. Specifically I was able to try an EisenBahn beer, which they say is a very typical craft beer. Since the trip I’ve bought this beer in a supermarket in São Paulo and when I have the pleasure of drinking it I remember that fantastic weekend I enjoyed with my family; and all this thanks to tourism. If I’d not travelled to Florianopolis, I’d not have known this beer. And now I’m highly motivated to travel to the EisenBahn brewery to be able to see how this fantastic product is made.
In Catalonia we experienced some very complicated years, when less tax was collected, which placed travel promotion at risk. But on 1 November 2012 a tourist tax came into force, which provided the Catalan government with an injection of revenue that is earmarked for promoting tourism in the region.
It is no coincidence that every year Catalonia receives 16 million foreign tourists (for a population of 7.5 million people). This represents many years of taking part in trade fairs, signing commercial agreements with tour operators, investing in advertising campaigns and working in partnership with the private sector to be able to promote our destination.
In all modesty, I believe that Catalonia should be an example for countries that still do not believe in the potential that tourism has. Investment in promoting a destination has to be constant and results from an accumulation of efforts over many years in which, at times, the economic situation is just not up to it.
Now it’s Brazil’s time to look abroad, to promote the country’s attractions and to unite both public and private sectors in order to be able to finance campaigns aimed at attracting more tourists, especially at this time when the local currency (the Brazilian real) is so devalued relative to the US dollar and the euro.
JOAN ROMERO: Director of the Catalan Tourism Agency LATAM
He has a degree in Economic and Business Sciences from the University of Barcelona and a post-graduate qualification in Marketing Management from the ESADE Business School.
Joan Romero is the director of the new office of the Catalan Tourism Agency for South America, the objective of which is to promote Catalonia and attract Brazilian, Colombian, Argentinean, Peruvian and Chilean tourists. He has extensive experience in the public and private tourism sectors and was the director of the UK office for Catalonia between 2001 and 2005.