Byline: Bernardo Villegas
In a country where sixty million or more foreign tourists come to visit every year, Barcelona and the surrounding region of Catalunya account for the second largest inflow after the Canary Islands.
I am impressed at how the private sector in this region is so well organized that it has formed Exceltur, the Alliance for Excellent Tourism, which this year will celebrate its sixth anniversary. Exceltur has two main objectives: a greater awareness of the socioeconomic impact of tourism and guaranteeing the best conditions for its competitiveness with other regions in Spain and with the rest of the world. It is made up of 24 enterprises, most of them leaders in their respective segments, employing some 200,000 persons. The total volume of business of the members surpassed 25 billion euros at the end of 2006, with direct investments in more than 40 countries and commercial operations in 175 (countries). The pillar of the alliance is made up of the hotel chains, which represent approximately 35 percent of the capacity in Spain of the four- and five-star hotels, as well as 90 percent of the hotel investments abroad. The members coming from the airline industry have a total fleet of more than 280 planes and transport about 40 million passengers annually. Other leisure services are also represented in the organization.
Recently, the Executive Vice President of Exceltur, Jose Luis Zoreda, an MBA alumnus of the IESE Business School, gave an interview in which he talked about some truths and exposed some myths about the tourism industry. What he said could be very useful to the various sectors of the tourism industry of the Philippines, which are also increasingly organized to speak with one voice. The first myth has to do with the exaggerated fear of global warming. There are the prophets of doom who say that in 20 to 30 years, tourism based on sand and sun will disappear because of global warming. Mr. Zoreda says that this is nonsense. The attractions of the fine beaches or other leisure activities based on a sunny climate will continue to be among the major alternatives to be considered by people going on vacations. The question the industry should ask itself is if it is able to reinvent some of the destinations of sand and sun that can be differentiated from the many other similar sites available in the world market. And we have to be concerned not only about the beaches, but also with the mountains, forests, lakes and whatever natural or cultural space may attract the attention of tourists from different parts of the world, including the local ones.
The residential (longterm) tourists can be blamed for the environmental damage done to the coasts. According to Mr. Zoreda, this is only partially true in Spain. It is true that in the last ten years, the construction of houses for the use of long-term tourists has grown disproportionately. But this trend was not promoted by enterprises in the tourism industry. Investors in real estate were the prime movers, strongly assisted by local governments that were looking for more lucrative sources of real estate taxes. Tourism authorities in the Philippines have to foresee what could be the implication of "residential tourism" on the beaches and other tourism destinations in the Philippines. …