Spain Celebrates The Culture Of Catalonia

with Kerry Sharpe

Cristina Gargallo, North America director, Catalan Tourist Board; Maria Pons, Catalan Tourist Board; Marcos Vega, Consul General for Spain; Laura Pena Alberdí, Embassy of Spain; Simona Cercel, Air Canada; Tony Celio, Air Canada.

Travel agents chat with the various associations and local travel suppliers from Catalonia.

Tina the Travel Agent was also in attendance and ready to learn!

The Tourist Office of Spain landed in Toronto last week, following similar stops in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The purpose? A dedicated workshop on Catalonia and Barcelona.

Bringing together close to 80 agent partners with 19 associations and local travel suppliers from Catalonia, including the Catalan Tourist Board, Turisme de Barcelona, the Barcelona Hotel Association, H10 Hotels, and Montserrat, among others, the evening started with a presentation about the destination, followed by a workshop and networking reception.

“Tonight is about Catalonia and Barcelona and all that they have to offer, placing the focus very much on culture, in a very wide sense. Not only in art and heritage buildings but also in the gastronomical experiences and the ambiance of the different cities,” said Laura Pena Alberdí, consul in charge of tourism affairs for the Embassy of Spain in Canada.

“Spain had a great year in 2017, with great numbers, and Catalonia also – it represented 45% of Canadian tourism going to Spain,” continued Pena Alberdí. “But what we would like to stress is there is much more [to Catalonia] than just Barcelona… there are many other things there that are worth discovering, and the Canadian trade can us help promote [those things].”

2017 was indeed a record year for tourism to Spain, with the country hitting a new all-time high of 81.8 million tourists, an increase of 8.6% from 2016, and positioned Spain second after France among the world’s most visited countries. In fact, from Canada alone, arrivals grew by 25.2% in 2017. 

Forecasts for 2018 suggest another positive year for Spain’s tourism industry, including a moderate but steady growth predicted in the number of Canadians planning on visiting the country. Numbers that, according to the Tourist Office, position Spain well for an expected increase in airline capacity – something Air Canada agrees with.

“It’s a great destination for us,” said Tony Celio, manager, specialty sales, for Air Canada, in speaking about Barcelona. “We operate non-stop service out of Toronto and Montreal – during the summer peak we operate daily out of both cities, and recently announced the expansion of our seasonality from Montreal to Barcelona into November, and out of Toronto we’re operating into the first week of January. It’s not daily, we scale it back during the fall, but it just goes to show, demand is there and [the destination] has done very well for us.”

“I think that Canadian tourists are discovering Catalonia more and more, and are appreciating all the cultural wonders of Spain. Not only the museums – and Catalonia has many amazing museums – but this dynamic experience of enjoying it and sharing it with the locals, which is so easy to achieve in Spain.”

Kerry Sharpe

Kerry Sharpe Columnist

Having worked in travel for the last 16 years, Kerry has experience covering the industry as media, as well as being under its lens when she worked for Thomas Cook, TravelBrands and itravel2000. A new mom, Kerry recently returned to the workforce and when she’s not chasing after her daughter, you’ll see her out and about covering industry events alongside her new BFF Tina the Travel Agent.

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