Speech by the President of the Government of Spain at the Turespaña FITUR stand on Tourism Sustainability

21.1.2022

SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF SPAIN

Well, good morning to you all. First of all, I would like to thank the IFEMA family for having the courage to hold this important fair in person. Also to all the representatives of the organisations of the tourism sector and, without a doubt, also to the institutional representatives, some of whom I see here among us, the President of La Rioja, ministers from different regional governments, city halls and regional councils.

And, of course, I would also like to thank the Turespaña family and, on their behalf, to thank the Minister for Tourism for her leadership. Because I believe that, with rights and wrongs, throughout these more than two years of the pandemic, I believe that both the public and private sectors have opened a stage of dialogue, collaboration and mutual learning, because we were facing something completely unknown, such as dealing with a pandemic in the face of a virus that was not known to science either. And I believe that in these more than two years of management we have been learning together. And we have been seeing where the mistakes were, correcting them and reinforcing those elements, those policies that have been fundamental. First to resist, then to reactivate and now to consolidate the recovery of the tourism sector, which is so important for our economy and for so many regions.

I would therefore like my first words to be a word of recognition for the whole sector. And when I speak of the entire sector, I am referring to the public sector, to the private sector, because together we have made it possible for us to breathe a very different atmosphere today than we did a year ago, or well, let's remember, two years ago.

Well, José Vicente said it before, when we were coming here. I think we are all well aware that FITUR is the most important tourism fair in the world. And each year we improve, each year we innovate, each year we are at the forefront with many examples that you will probably have the opportunity to see later.

This is a fair that, as the minister commented earlier, was held in 2020 before the pandemic, that resisted in 2021 with the hybrid formats that we had the opportunity to do and now in 2022 it is taking place in a situation of clear recovery of the sector.

I believe that, between all of us, we have made Spain grow today, creating employment in such a labour-intensive sector as the tourism sector. And that is why, among other things, we now have 20 million employed men and women. These are employment figures that we have not had since before the financial crisis of 2008. Therefore, I believe that together we have managed to move Spain in a clear direction, which is that of economic recovery. Together we are trying to make this economic recovery as fair as possible for our workers, for our fellow citizens and, without a doubt, also for the entrepreneurs in the important tourism sector.

I believe that Spain today, as we have seen in the video, has a great opportunity, the opportunity to manage funds that can give us a leap in quality if we all anticipate the changes that the future and potential consumers of tourism in all its richness in our country are going to have.

And therefore, I believe that, between all the institutions, between all the administrations, and also with the collaboration of the private sector, we can make this leap in quality, in modernisation for our economy and also for employment.

Some data that I think is also important to put on the table in order to be aware of the effort we have all made together in these little more than two years of the pandemic. We have protected millions of jobs, millions of jobs. Many of them are linked to the tourism sector. Millions of jobs. Thanks to ERTEs, thanks to direct benefits for self-employed workers. But the most important thing is not that we have protected these workers in the most difficult times, which is undoubtedly the case, the most important thing is that 95% of these workers are now back in their jobs and, therefore, no jobs were destroyed.

And I believe that this is something we should be proud of, because between the Government and the private sector, we have also been adapting the mechanisms for protecting and reactivating these workers to the unprecedented evolution of the pandemic, as the recovery progressed.

A fundamental element, which I also believe is something that sets us apart from other countries, as we mentioned earlier, is the formidable vaccination rate that we have achieved in our country. More than 90% of our population, without compulsory vaccination, has been fully vaccinated. We are making progress on paediatric vaccinations. We are also making progress on the third dose, on the booster dose for those groups that are much more vulnerable.

In short, I believe that vaccination is also a fundamental element, together with protection, of all this enormous economic recovery that we are seeing in a sector as important as the tourism sector.

And finally, we have the European funds. Which, as I said before, are that great opportunity for our economy to grow, for our economy to modernise. Because the tourism sector, before the pandemic, we were already talking about the need to improve our competitiveness in the tourism sector, to align the tourism sector with sustainability, environmental sustainability, for example.

And therefore, today, fortunately, unlike what happened with the financial crisis, we have public resources and public investment so that in these six years, between all of us, between the public sector and the private sector, we can make that leap in quality that will undoubtedly make our tourism sector even better than it was before the pandemic.

Therefore, I have to tell you that for me, in short, to see the public that is at FITUR today and that has come to FITUR over the last few days to sign contracts, to carry out operations, and to compare it with last year. Well, Minister, I believe, José Vicente, that we can be enormously satisfied and also show enormous hope and enthusiasm.

And I would also like to highlight the resurgence of tourism in 2021, which is, in the end, the springboard towards which, let's say, thanks to which we are going to leap in numbers this 2022, and share it with all of you. Earlier, the Director of Turespaña commented on some of this data.

Between January and November, the number of foreign tourists visiting Spain exceeded 28 million and their spending exceeded 31.2 billion euros. In the specific case of November, because indeed, what we have seen over the past year is that we have gone from strength to strength in the economic recovery. In the specific case of November, the percentage of foreign visitors reached 72% of those who came in 2019, which was, as we all remember and all long for, a record year.

We have managed to achieve figures for average spending per tourist, which has always been one of the fundamental elements of the tourism sector, and for length of stay, which are already higher than those we had two years ago.

And employment in the sector closed 2021 with an increase of 233,160 male and female affiliates compared to a year ago, i.e. 11.3% year-on-year, to over 2.3 million employees. This is the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year growth. And tourism already represents 12%, 11.9% of the total number of Social Security affiliates in our national economy.

Moreover, the Government believes that the Recovery Plan will allow us to create a lot of jobs. More than 200,000 additional jobs between 2021 and 2023. And the complete execution of the investments derived from the Plan will exceed the creation of another 100,000 direct jobs alone.

In other words, tourism is not only going to continue to be one of the main pillars of economic growth and job creation, but with this public-private partnership and this enormous public investment that will also leverage private investment, I believe that we could be at a stage prior to a moment of maximum splendour for our tourism sector and, therefore, also for economic growth in our country.

I think this is clear. I believe that Spain has established itself as a safe, thriving destination in an environment of great global uncertainty. I am not going to tell the representatives of the sectors and the different institutions present here, because we are all very clear about this. But that was the aim of the Government's actions.

In other words, I remember that when the pandemic broke out, we began to talk, Minister, José Vicente, colleagues. We are starting to talk about all sectors. We are starting to talk about safe tourism, about making Spain a safe destination in the face of this health emergency.

And what did we do? Firstly, by devoting an enormous volume of resources to sustaining our tourism fabric. One figure I think is sufficiently eloquent to express what I am saying. 18.3 billion euros. 18.3 billion euros through ICO facilities, only for the self-employed, companies in the sector. 7 billion euros in direct aid to SMEs and the self-employed. In short, the hundreds of thousands of tourist jobs that were saved thanks to ERTEs.

Therefore, the effort we have made from the Public Administration, I believe, has been an unparalleled effort, but also, obviously, up to the challenge ahead of us.

Secondly, as the Minister for Tourism, Reyes, said earlier, we have made a commitment to international mobility, above all by trying to promote and reopen European borders as soon as possible, which is where our international tourism comes from, to a large extent.

We are leading, together with other countries, the implementation of the COVID Certificate. I remember, moreover, just last year, Minister, here, presenting this Digital Green Certificate.

We have also promoted initiatives in this respect within the framework of the OECD to provide a more multilateral and uniform response to this international mobility, which is so necessary to continue recovering international tourism quotas.

And on the other hand, we are at an unbeatable moment to give that modernising impulse to our tourist activity, as I mentioned earlier.

Spain closed 2019 as a world leader in tourism competitiveness. It is the world's second largest tourist destination, both in terms of international tourist arrivals and revenues. And therefore, maintaining this status will require us to move decisively towards a much more diversified industry, which is something that has also been mentioned to me on many occasions by representatives of the tourism sector, with greater added value and, therefore, higher quality.

Well, I think that in this context the most obvious objective is sustainability. I believe that we all have to make a leap in competitiveness, which is largely explained by sustainability. Because, at the end of the day, the only way to ensure the continued progress of the tourism sector has a lot to do with sustainability.

As we have said on many occasions, tourism is one of the main economic, social and cultural driving forces on a global level, and it is, without a doubt, a key player in everything we are talking about.

What are we going to do? Well, first of all, we are going to align the entire Spanish tourism industry in a conversation that we must have at different levels, both with the different administrations that have broad competencies in the tourism sector, as well as with the private tourism sector itself, and also with the workers, in order to make these European funds, as I said before, a great opportunity to bring this process to a successful conclusion.

To this end, as the book said, we have incorporated a specific component, or rather, the book, the video, a specific component, in our Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, with a budgetary contribution of 3.4 billion euros and an estimated total impact of 6.732 billion euros on GDP as a whole.

And just so that we are aware of the scale of the amount invested that we are going to invest in tourism from European funds, this 3.4 billion euros is double the investment budgeted by the sector or for the tourism sector in our country between 2012 and 2017.

That is the effort we are going to make thanks to the European Funds. To double the contribution between 2012 and 2017 to improving the competitiveness of the tourism sector.

I believe that the commitment of the Government of Spain, as we have demonstrated in these two long years of pandemic, but undoubtedly with the future ahead of us, is unquestionable.

Within this plan, what are we going to do in the first three years? Well, we are going to allocate 1.858 billion euros to the transformation of the sector through what you know well, the tourism destination sustainability plans, of which 660 million euros have already been allocated to the regional governments in the public tender for proposals launched in 2021.

Again, simply to contextualise this effort, because I think it is important, if we do not get lost with the billions of euros that we fortunately have to be able to make this leap in competitiveness, we should bear in mind that it is 150 million euros more than the amount invested by the European Union in six years in the development and promotion of resources and services in all the member states.

This is only what we are going to allocate thanks to the European Funds to this important measure for the sustainability of our tourist destinations.

And I would also like to highlight something that Minister Maroto has already mentioned on many occasions, and that is that we are going to allocate 45 million euros to destinations along the Camino de Santiago, which will also contribute to the revitalisation of a route that is very important from a tourism point of view, but also from the point of view of territorial cohesion, which is something that we take very much into account and which we also define as one of the main vectors that explains the transfer and allocation of European Funds.

The regional governments, the regional councils, the councils, the city halls, the local entities, in this line of governance that is enshrined in the eighth title of our Constitution, have managed the funds of these plans, because each territory, obviously, I am going to state the obvious, knows better than Madrid and the Government of Spain, obviously, what the needs are and what the potential is that must be developed.

And just to give you another piece of information, we have already approved 46 million euros of the 220 million euros corresponding to the strategies for resilience, for competitiveness in non-peninsular territories, with particularly important investment in the Canary Islands and also in the Balearic Islands.

And we are going to invest more than 27 million euros in the recovery of tourism on this important island for everyone, the island of La Palma, with this plan that the minister presented a few weeks ago on the island of La Palma, which is called the La Palma Renace Plan, Minister, in short, I believe that her programme of tourist vouchers to help the community to encourage travel to the island during 2022.

In short, I believe that not only is it only fair because of the drama and the catastrophe they have suffered, but also because it is a beautiful island that has enormous potential and that we must undoubtedly support it from all administrations.

The General State Budget for 2022 allocates 1.817 billion euros, as I have said, to investments in the tourism sector. To give us an idea, this is 35% more than what we allocated in the previous year and in the approved budgets we allocated to tourism, and I think it is also very important to stress this, the highest figure that the State Tourism Administration has ever committed itself to. This is the scale of the challenge ahead of us, but undoubtedly it is also the commitment that we have, that we have ahead of us.

I would like to make two announcements in this regard. The first of these is that in March, we are going to launch the second public tender for proposals with a budget of 720 million euros. This is the clearest confirmation of the Government's implementation of European funds, developing the transformation of the sector.

And the second announcement I would like to share with all of you is that within the Tourism Sustainability programme for 2022, we are going to launch the National Gastronomic Tourism Plan, with a budget of 65 million euros.

I think we are all aware that there are millions of tourists, many of whom we also saw in the video, foreigners and non-foreigners, who enjoy the best regional food in our country, both from the traditional point of view and the avant-garde. And we in the Government of Spain also want to attach importance to this perspective.

Well, one important issue that I think we can all very much agree on is the challenge of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Our country, according to science, is going to be a country and the area of the world we are in, severely affected by the climate challenge and therefore we have to make the climate challenge something that we incorporate into our business strategies and also into our strategies and decision making at the political level.

In this regard, I would like to say that in the area of tourism we are going to consider an investment of 220 million euros for mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the tourism sector. This is basically aid aimed at promoting energy efficiency in hotels, in catering establishments, the first bases of which we are going to publish soon. And this aid will allow us to finance the installation of renewable energies in many tourist establishments and, in general, the rational use of energy and the reduction of consumption.

One of the strategic projects that the Government of Spain is going to implement is called the circular economy. And I believe that Spain, and why not say it, also the tourism sector, may have an important opportunity to improve its competitiveness from the point of view of environmental sustainability.

Alongside this, I would also like to emphasise social sustainability. I would like to remind you, and I think this is a fundamental idea, that our tourism industry cannot really be sustainable if there is no fair distribution of wealth. And that is why we have also included in our Recovery Plan - which is the European Funds - a programme for social sustainability in the tourism sector.

What for? Well, to encourage companies in the sector to adopt measures in this sense, including the development of a programme that we call fair hotels that incorporate improvements in quality, reconciliation of work and family and personal life, as well as facilities for the development of professional careers and professional training, in which the Government of Spain is also making significant progress with this new law on Professional Training that we hope will soon be approved by the Spanish Parliament.

And along with that, and finally, I think we have to talk about digitalisation. Today, and precisely this year, Fitur is once again at the forefront of digitalisation. I believe that in the case of tourism, it is clear that digitalisation is key to continue attracting tourists who are increasingly connected and with stays of greater added value.

The Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence programme has been allocated 337 million euros over the next three years and has a cornerstone, which I would say is the creation of the smart destination platform.

We had the opportunity to present it to the city of Benidorm, in Alicante, the first accredited smart destination in our country. Fulfilling the commitment that I believe we all have to decentralise state institutions in order to bring our country together. We are going to support the Intelligent Tourist Destinations Network, which is an initiative in which Spain is a world leader and I would also like to highlight its value. It now includes 226 destinations throughout the country. And in this regard, I would also like to welcome the presence at the fair of the Fitur Know-How & Export section, which I believe will include 40 companies with technological solutions and tools for the digital transformation of destinations and companies in the sector.

I believe that, finally, I would like to conclude my speech with a confirmation, and that is that in the coming months we will have the Sustainable Tourism Strategy 2030, thus aligning our objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals and therefore with the Multilateral Agenda 2030. In 2019, minister, we began this reflection and we set it down in the General Guidelines document that we published in 2019. Now, within the framework of the Modernisation and Competitiveness Plan associated with the European funds, I believe that we have an enormous and unbeatable opportunity to jointly define the development model for tourism in Spain for the next decade. And what we have to do is to guide its transformation along the lines that I have expressed in my speech: sustainability, digitalisation, diversification and maximisation of added value.

In short, I believe that we are at a pivotal moment of great hope for the Spanish tourism industry and, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are facing it with optimism and hope. Clearly we have a lot of work ahead of us to do together, public sector, private sector. I believe, as I said at the beginning, that we have learned from each other, that we have corrected mistakes, that we have strengthened the successes that we have been developing over these more than two long years of the pandemic. And therefore, I believe that what we must do and what is incumbent upon us is to move forward.

We are counting on a thriving sector, which I believe is truly strategic for our economy, for job creation, for territorial cohesion and, in short, for the well-being and progress of our country.

So I would like to end by once again thanking the real stars: the private sector, its workers, the public administrations present here, and also, of course, the IFEMA family. We would like to thank all of you for these hard, difficult years, for the resistance that we have all shown together and now we are opening up to this new era, which will logically be marked by economic growth, by job creation and by the competitiveness of a sector that is so fundamental for our country.

It is an honour for me to be able to address all of you and it is also an honour to be able to see this Fair full of people, full of energy, full of hope. And the Government of Spain is also going to contribute to this.

Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation