|Locals and tourists enjoy the waters of Cala Marlonda in the Spanish resort city of Majorca.|
Spain’s victory at the FIFA World Cup in July may very well 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 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.”
To that end, Spain will focus not just on its athletic laurels, but on the athletes themselves and their hometowns. “Promoting sports is different from promoting a destination,” Notario says. “Big sports names are promoting the places where they were born. It’s connecting their popularity with the destination. That’s selling something.”
Case in point is the upsurge in interest in the Spanish resort city of Majorca, thanks to its homegrown tennis champion Rafael Nadal. While Nadal is a paid spokesperson for the tourism authority of Majorca (to the tune of $8.4 million for three years), every time he takes to the court it’s bonus advertising for the destination. With his recent U.S. Open win, that exposure was magnified.
Notario also emphasizes that the tourism board is not promoting Spain, but rather tourism to Spain. To encourage people to visit the country, she 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 pore over the best shopping in each city, and history professors seek guides to the nation’s 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.”
Arrivals in Spain 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, and an inviting alternative to those 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, [and] 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.”