All About Spain: Talking with Paloma Notario

Spain’s victory at the World Cup may help the nation head in a new direction, so it’s entirely appropriate that the country’s Tourism Office in New York has appointed a new director to guide the country’s tourism board into the next decade.

Paloma Notario has worked in various fields in the tourism industry for more than 30 years, seeing trends come and go as numbers rise and fall. The potential positive effect of the World Cup victory, she says, “is not permanent,” and the window for influencing Spain’s tourism numbers is a brief one. “Spain is more visible now,” she says. “It's what we do next that matters.”

Paloma Notario

To that end, Spain will be focusing not just on its athletic laurels, but on the athletes themselves and their homeland. “Promoting sports is different from promoting a destination,” she explains. “Big sports names are promoting the places where they were born. It's connecting their popularity with the destination. That's selling something.”

Notario also emphasizes that the Tourism Board is not promoting Spain, but promoting tourism to Spain. To encourage people to visit the country, Notario is developing databases of niche markets that would appreciate what Spain has to offer. For example, architects would want to know where to find Pritzker Prize-winning buildings in the country, while shopaholics would appreciate help finding the best shopping in each city, and history professors would want guides to ancient sites. “Send us the [client] profile; we'll find the product,” Notario says. “Our job is to help people sell more, or in an easier way.”

Spain’s numbers have increased in recent months, Notario says, partially thanks to the volcano that devastated so much of Northern Europe. Safe in the south, Spain’s skies were clear, offering an opportunity for people who still wanted to enjoy a European vacation. Spain is also becoming popular for return trips to Europe. “When people travel to Europe for the second time, they choose a destination where there is safety, but also a variety of culture and opportunities. In times of economic problems, people appreciate the feeling of fiesta.”

Despite its recent problems, she adds, the people in Spain “still enjoy themselves—[it’s] the joy of life.” Spain is markedly different from any other country in Europe, and that is the hook for getting Americans to visit and explore. “Marketing means selling the difference.”

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