While Spain has seen large increases of Canadian arrivals in recent years, there’s still room for more growth as the destination continues to promote its culture and gastronomy to travellers, according to Barbara Couto, the recently-appointed consul for tourism affairs for the Tourist Office of Spain in Canada.
Sitting down with PAX this week to discuss her trade engagement strategies for the coming years, Couto said that more than 446,000 Canadians visited the country last year, the majority of which travelled from Ontario and Quebec, respectively contributing 36.7 per cent and 34.2 per cent of the total. According to Couto, while increased air connectivity between the two countries has been key to getting Canadians to Spain, the increased number of flights stems from a growing interest in the destination.
“Connectivity is the main factor,” Couto told PAX. “There’s more direct connections than ever before and we can see a direct relation. It’s a response to a growing interest – if not, these planes would be empty. The new connections are meeting the needs of the market.
With Spain seen as a cultural destination amongst Canadian travellers, Couto said that the tourism office will continue to promote and raise awareness of draws such as history and cuisine, while also drawing more attention to lesser-known destinations: while the majority of Canadians are travelling to popular tourist centres such as Catalonia, Barcelona and Andalucia, Couto said that there is “a lot of possibilities” for travellers in regions such as Spain’s Basque Country, Valencia and Galicia.
“Canadians know about the rich history and gastronomy,” Couto told PAX, and “we can do better positioning products that are not as well known.
Working with the travel trade
To get the message out, Couto said that the office will continue to work with the Canadian travel trade, providing resources to travel advisors, such as training programs to help increase and enhance their knowledge of Spain’s tourism draws in order to anticipate their clients’ travel desires. These include upcoming webinars as well as updates to the Spain specialist program for agents, Couto explained.
“We want to work very closely with the trade, so they know they can come to us for help,” she said. “We want agents to be able to meet market trends – we see that Canadians are becoming more interested in culture, gastronomy, experiences and blending in with the locals.”
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