The 11th Exceltur Forum brought together numerous key companies from the Spanish tourism sector. Also taking part were national and international political figures, such as Pablo Casado, leader of the opposition and president of the Popular Party, and Luis Abinader, president of the Dominican Republic. The mayors of Madrid and Seville, José Luis Martínez-Almeida and Antonio Múñoz, also took part in the Exceltur Forum 'Rethinking tourism post covid: new challenges, new perspectives'.
Casado began his speech by praising the Spanish tourism sector. "Spain's tourism is the best in the world", he declared. For this reason, the president of the Partido Popular called for the national tourism model to be vindicated and for the sector's competitiveness to be strengthened. In this regard, Casado alluded to the European funds "to reduce risks and recover competitiveness". Also, with regard to the Next Generation funds, the leader of the opposition criticised the government for its "unquestionable inefficiency", as well as branding the management of President Pedro Sánchez as "lamentable". "Real money has not reached Spanish companies", Casado denounced.
On the other hand, the PP president presented several of his party's measures to promote economic recovery. Casado proposed a reduction in taxes and ministries, as well as more labour flexibility for the self-employed.
To conclude, he once again praised Spanish tourism. The sector "has the support of the vast majority of Spaniards and I am convinced that in a few months' time it will once again have the support of 80 million international tourists to whom it offers the best showcase of the best country in the world, Spain".
The pandemic has highlighted the need for technology and digitalisation in the tourism industry. For this reason, Emilio Gayo, Chairman of Telefónica, was one of the keynote speakers at the Exceltur Forum. According to Gayo, the coronavirus has accelerated digitalisation. The director of Telefónica gives as examples teleworking, videoconferencing during confinements or digital education.
"Digitalisation creates economic wealth and increases productivity", Gayo guaranteed. "SMEs are lagging behind in productivity, and digitalisation can alleviate this," he added. The engineer presented Spain's great opportunity to develop digitalisation, as the country has "the best infrastructures in Europe".
"Tourism needs technology, digitalisation", insisted Gayo. The president of Telefónica alluded to an evolution in the sector, "more intelligent and that contributes to sustainability". In this sense, tourism allows us to make tourism sustainable, since "technology and sustainability go hand in hand".
The Dominican Republic has a large Spanish investment in the tourism sector. Due to the weight that this country has in many national companies, the forum has counted on the participation of Luis Abinader, Dominican president. "For us, tourism is fundamental for economic and social development", declared Abinader. The Dominican president pointed out the large number of direct and indirect jobs that tourism creates in the Caribbean country.
For Abinader, the public-private partnership is fundamental for the sector and the economy. "The development of a country is achieved when government and business go hand in hand," he said. The president assured that he maintains direct contact with tourism representatives. In this context, he explained that during the pandemic, his government created a tourism cabinet so that the actions agreed by the executive would be coordinated. He also indicated that he had intelligence studies in the main tourist-sending countries. "People wanted to travel, but they were afraid of catching COVID-19. For this reason, the Dominican Republic, together with hoteliers, financed the COVID insurance. "The collaboration of the hotel industry and the government made it possible to set up COVID insurance. Problems arose, but we were able to solve them thanks to the partnership," he said, reiterating the need for public-private cooperation.
At the same time, Abinader assured that the hospitals doubled the number of beds and ventilators to face the pandemic. "We strengthened the economy while taking care of the health of Dominicans," he said. On the economic front, the president estimates that the country will grow by around 12.5%. This progress will take the environment into account, as the president stressed. "We must ensure that our development is economically and socially sustainable," he stressed.
After Abinader's speech, the focus returned to national politics. Mayors José Luis Martínez-Almeida and Antonio Muñoz addressed the issue of urban tourism. The Madrid mayor outlined the capital's tourism priorities for 2022. "We have to identify our strengths and improve our weaknesses," Martínez-Almeida stressed. Despite the pandemic, the capital's mayor announced that, during the Constitution holiday, the city achieved high hotel occupancy. "2022 will be the year of consolidation of tourism," he predicted.
Regarding the problem of overcrowding, Martínez-Almeida considers that, during the pandemic, "Madrid has seen an improvement in the hotel sector". "We want to boost this tourism. We are the gateway to Europe", he declared. To conclude, Martínez-Almeida extended his hand to the businessmen. "We are not only going to listen to them, but we are going to take their voices into account. The doors of the city council are open", he concluded.
The mayor of Seville, on the other hand, stressed the hotel investment that the Andalusian capital is experiencing. "No project has fallen through despite the health situation", he guaranteed. Muñoz also referred to sustainability and digitalisation, two key issues that have been boosted by the pandemic.
Subsequently, Alejandro Hernández-Puertolas, CEO of HIP (Hotel Investment Partners); Víctor Martí, CEO of ATOM Hoteles SOCIMI and GMA; and Óscar Perelli, Director of the Study and Research Area of Exceltur, spoke. This colloquium focused on the new players in tourism and investment models.
The first part of the Exceltur Forum concluded with the participation of María José Rallo, Secretary of State for Transport; Carlos Bertomeu, President of Air Nostrum; Isaías Táboas, President of RENFE; and José María Gónzalez, Managing Director of Eurocar Mobility Group in Southern Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The speakers discussed new mobility policies, connectivity and intermobility.