It is one of the main tourist markets of Aragon, so it is logical that the institutions take care of visitors who already account for 16% of international tourism in the Community. We are talking about the French tourist, neighbors on the other side of the Pyrenees who, precisely, find in this natural border a point of union to know the Community. The adventure and nature tourism, the gastronomy, the festivals and the cultural offer of this area between the two countries are some of the attractions that seek to promote the Pyrenees as an attractive destination for the Gauls and, of course, for the Spaniards.
“After the pandemic, the presence of international tourism, such as the French, has encouraged the hotel industry, which had been starving for months. The French are one of our main tourist markets in Aragon and represent more than 16% of the international tourists we receive,” says the Director General of Tourism of the Government of Aragon, Gloria Perez.
As she explains, “the Pyrenees is the link between both territories and tourism is the most effective tool for this, highlighting our strengths as a territory, uniting them as a single tourist destination“. To this end, Aragonese institutions are participating in joint projects with France, such as InturPYR, whose first experience was the construction of the first cross-border tourism office in the Pyrenees.
A new territorial identity
According to Pérez, this joint tourism promotion “is moving towards a new territorial identity” that responds “to the will of the territory to have a shared strategy” in this area. An example of these initiatives is the common portal between the two countries pirineospyrenees.com, in which the two countries participate to show the tourist offer on both sides of the mountains.
However, this initiative is not the only one currently in operation. Something as natural and rooted to the space as the paths has also become an opportunity to promote the territory. These are the so-called GR Transfronterizos, “trails that run between Aragon and France and link the Aragonese GR 11 with the French GR 10,” explains the head of Tourism.
A collaboration that also finds a common ally in the Camino de Santiago, “a very important element in cooperation based on tourism between Aragon and France,” says Perez. “Thanks to European funding, we have built a spectacular footbridge on the French side to significantly improve the safety of the route, in addition to adding to our Camino de a novel element for pilgrims and tourists,” he explains about this proposal.
“Both territories have a wonderful historical heritage that, from Olorón to Undués de Lerda, delights those who pass through our Camino,” he adds. In that sense, the website caminodesantiagoporaragon.com shows the richness and the route “that make a continuum of the Camino between Aragon and France, containing the element of the Somport as a common link with many years of history,” he adds.
European funding to boost the area
This strategy of a single destination in the mountain range has been promoted by European funding, through INTERREG cooperation funds. “Specifically, Aragon and France have been working on the lines known as POCTEFA, which make it possible to establish projects between Spain, France and Andorra in their border areas and areas of influence,” specifies the director general.
Another project in this field is the Pyrénées Road Trip. This is an initiative of the department of Hautes-Pyrénées (France) and the province of Huesca that offers travel packages with the Pyrenean roads as the axis and that seek to show all the attractions of the area.
These actions developed for the tourist destination in the heart of the Pyrenees, concludes Perez, “participate in the simulation of the competitiveness of the tourist sector, competitiveness that will be accompanied by a sustainable, responsible and quality development being included in the strategies of sustainable and quality European destinations”.
But these are not the only initiatives in which the Government of Aragon participates in order to make the Community an attractive destination for the French. It also carries out proposals in French territory to show the virtues of the Community.
In this sense, the director general says: “The tourism promotion actions in Bordeaux, Toulouse and Paris are aimed at boosting Aragon’s notoriety as an attractive tourist destination for different market segments and that contribute to boosting the Community’s tourism offer, as well as positioning it”.
In this way, the regional Executive selects “the most strategic fairs for Aragonese interests, both nationally and internationally, and they are reflected in a Plan of Fairs and Promotional Events for the French commercial circuits”.
In addition, familiarization trips, known as ‘famtrips’, are offered to show the benefits of Aragon directly to specialized journalists and travel agents, so that they include the Community in their catalogs or dedicate a report to it. “In this way, we get to see in a faithful and direct way the product we want to promote,” he adds.
Almost 2 million tourists from abroad up to July
Aragon has already received, from January to July, almost two million domestic and foreign visitors, 1,993,105 to be precise. These figures are very close to those of before the pandemic, when 2,087,054 tourists visited Aragon during the same period, which shows the recovery of the sector in this sense.
“This means that the tourist who comes to Aragon in 2022 (in the accumulated until July) stays overnight more than the one who came in 2019, a positive data because the foreign tourist stays longer in the territory”, emphasizes the general director of tourism.
However, and although the Pyrenees is the spearhead with France, it is by no means the only attraction of Aragon. Thus, and although these mountains, the Pre-Pyrenees, the province of Huesca and the city of Zaragoza are the most visited places, “French tourism also lands in the province of Teruel, in the regions of Maestrazgo, Albarracín and Matarraña”, emphasizes Pérez.