With an enormous amount of flight connections and a rich history of tourism, Spain has always been a favourite among Russian visitors. This position has solidified in 2016 – over a million Russians took the hop across Europe to holiday in Spain.
Luis Boves Martín, the Director of Turespaña in Russia, reflects on a successful year for Spain and talks about why the Russia-Spain relationship is about more than the sun and the sea.
Luis, how many Russians came to Spain last year?
According to Spanish statistics, 1,007,709. This is a growth of 2.2% - the situation with Turkey and Egypt has helped us increase. Turkey is the first market for Russians and it was closed during the high season, so some of the clients that would normally deal with Turkey came to southern European countries like Greece and us.
Also, the value of the rouble relative to the Euro has remained steady. This made Russians more confident about travelling.
This has clearly helped your coastal destinations, but have you also seen growth in your inland regions?
Yes. More Russians are looking for experiences when they travel – Michelin-star restaurants, for example. We realise that the variety of packages offered by tour operators in this sector is increasing, and many of them include trips to the interior of Spain and to the north and west of the country. This is increasing every year.
Of course, flight connections are very important in this regard. For example, Valencia begun a direct flight every day from Russia, and this made Valencia the highest-growing region in Spain last year.
Are there specific tourism products that are growing in Spain?
Of course our main offering is sun and beaches, and we try to increase this number every year. But that’s not all – we offer every kind of tourism that anyone could want. We are trying to offer products like wine and gastro-tourism, medical tourism, health travel, and so on. We realise that Spain is very strong for tourism, it is our principle industry, so we are trying to improve this industry by increasing our offer – not just destinations but products as well. This means we have the complete offer for any tourist cosmopolitan coming to Spain.
We are trying to promote these products to the Russian market as well – again, not just sun and beach travel.
The number of new routes between Russia and Spain is growing by the year. Has this helped you target the regional areas of Russia, and not just Moscow and St. Petersburg?
We have 28 visa centres operating in Russia, in cities across the country. 14 of them are open every day. When we speak about Russia, we’re taking about Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. We are trying to do our best to promote Spain east of the Urals, even though 85% of our tourists come from the west. For example, we have visa centres in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Irkutsk.
We want to be close to Russia in the current situation, because we want to display our friendship. We want to say to Russians that we will always welcome you to Spain with open arms.
How has MITT been for you this year?
MITT is like a barometer of the market. The feeling among the tour operators and visitors is positive. They have told me they expect increases of 15 to 20% compared to last year. We are optimistic about the market. We have 20% more reservations at this point in 2017, compared to the same time last year.