How do you assess Easter Week without national and foreign tourism?
The figures are not comparable with those of 2020 because we were closed indoors. The drop compared to 2019 has been important because there was a perimeter closure in the autonomous community, but we have noticed a movement of people from Huesca, Teruel and the province of Zaragoza. The people of Zaragoza are coming to the tourist offices and the leisure activities that are planned in the offices are being taken advantage of.
FITUR is almost a month away… Last year Zaragoza was sold as a congress city. What is Zaragoza’s proposal this year?
We are going with the autonomous community of Aragon and we are taking the umbrella that the DGA is kindly lending us. Zaragoza Day will be maintained and will revolve around the figure of Francisco de Goya. We are preparing several surprises and I think Zaragoza will be very well represented at FITUR.
FITUR LGBT+ presents this year the slogan “Destinations for Diversity” and they say that tourists with this profile will be one of the first to start their travel routines. Is Zaragoza going to propose some kind of tourist plan for this segment?
Really the important thing in destination and diversity is that the offer should not be differentiated for anybody. The success of a society is that it is not necessary to differentiate because we are all equal in right and obligations. The Pilar, the Stone Bridge or the gastronomy is the same for one profile as for another, although certain issues can be adapted. Zaragoza is prepared to welcome any group and we want to do things for everyone, whether it be LGBT+, pet friendly or family friendly. Surprises, of course there will be surprises.
You have just presented the Zaragoza Film Office (ZFO), how are you going to promote the office abroad?
The truth is that as part of the city’s strategy as a film destination, we are going to try to facilitate film shoots through different actions. We are the cradle of cinema and there have been major productions here, as recently demonstrated with Las niñas de Pilar Palomero. We are going to be at FITUR under the umbrella of the Spain Film Commission with a space for the city.
What is the forecast for this summer, and is national or foreign tourism expected?
The only certainty is uncertainty. As a biker myself, I always say when you take a curve that until you get to the exit you don’t give gas, and now we are in the middle of the curve. At the moment I don’t have enough elements to say that in summer the situation will be different from what it is now.
Last summer travel was allowed when there was no vaccine.
Right now we don’t know if vaccination schedules are going to be affected, if the state of alarm is going to be lifted on 9 May or extended, if there are going to be closures in autonomous communities or localities… we don’t have legal certainty. Planning is very difficult because you have to foresee an infinite number of scenarios.
Zaragoza Airport has planned flights… This is because there is optimism.
Hopefully those flights will be full and hopefully those flights will be full when they return.
Is it expected to be a platform for the departure or arrival of visitors?
Well, I don’t know. First we have to know what happens with national mobility and then what measures are proposed. If it is totally free, we will have to work on the destinations to which the flights go and on the network of AVE cities. But this cannot be done until it is certain that it will open. You are managing public money and you have to be exquisite in the way you deal with it. Any kind of activity you set up has to meet efficiency criteria. If we activate a publicity campaign, for example, in a destination like Ibiza, I don’t know if it will have a sufficiently interesting return to recover the investment. I know what they are going to be able to do in Zaragoza, but I don’t know if they are going to be able to come. The situation is complicated.
Is the visitors’ centre that was going to replace the tourist offices in the Plaza del Pilar going to be taken up again?
It is still going ahead. I understand that in 2021 there is a budget in an area of the Town Hall to refurbish the premises, I have personally visited the facilities and it is going to be a first class visitor centre. But like so many other projects, it is not such a priority right now.
Is the Lonja the place to promote Goya?
Anything that promotes Zaragoza as a destination is positive for me and for Zaragoza Tourism. Having an asset, be it in the Lonja or wherever it is, linked to Goya, is good for the city. These are decisions that are the responsibility of the Culture Department, while the Board of Trustees is responsible for the promotion of the destination. Francisco de Goya and Zaragoza should be one.
Do we need campaigns to make Zaragoza the city of Goya?
The first thing we have to do is to believe it ourselves. When the people of Zaragoza believe in it and feel that it is theirs, it will be possible.
In the first quarter of 2021, 2,849 foreigners arrived, all of them Portuguese, French and Italian. How do they come and what kind of tourism do they do in these circumstances?
They are arrivals for family or work reasons, because these are reasons why you can enter Zaragoza. Some are tourists, but they are not the classic tourists that we were used to seeing in a pre-pandemic situation. There is no longer a Chinese tourist, who used to be our number one international tourist. They have completely disappeared here and in the rest of the world. There are destinations, such as sun and beach destinations, that are suffering much more than us.
What has been the real effect on Zaragoza?
It is a complex subject to analyse. There are a few milestones in the Zaragoza destination that are important to continue to promote, such as Easter, the Pilar Festival or Christmas, which is a beautiful date and a time when we have to continue working to make it a destination like those central European cities that make you go there for their Christmas markets. Also the summer. We must continue to work, as we have already done, on agreements with the sector so that this seasonality is kept to a minimum. For example, with Horeca and Cafés and Bars, activities are organised throughout the year to try to attract people all year round. Now with a perimeter closure it is impossible. But the only positive thing is that the people of Zaragoza are getting to know our city better.
Since the end of February, the number of enquiries at the Tourist Office from the people of Zaragoza themselves has risen, and has increased even more steadily since the perimeter enclosure was removed. This shows this interest in the city itself.
We opened the offices on 25 May 2020, the first day of the hard phase 2. We had already been working on all the security protocols and the material necessary for the workers to attend to the people of Zaragoza. We made available to the citizens the offer for external and internal tourists. The city’s inhabitants are getting to know Zaragoza a little better. When you ask about the main attraction of Zaragoza, some people answer El Pilar or La Romareda, but I think that the main asset is the city’s inhabitants, the Zaragozano and the Zaragozan.
Many of those interviewed by Go Aragón highlight what you say…
Of course, our way of being… When it is said that “with a “maño” you will argue to see who pays the round”. We are the greatest ambassadors of the destination. This is making us a little more aware of our destiny. We always think that what we have outside our borders is better than what we have here and we are realising that Zaragoza has some very interesting things.
What type of tourism is being promoted to rediscover the city?
The same offer as for national and international tourists, adapted to the health situation. The tourist bus, the visits along the riverbank, the two jewels, the Goya route… so many things that we haven’t adapted Zaragoza Tourism’s offer to the domestic client.
Do you maintain the joint strategies with Huesca and Teruel to increase overnight stays?
Yes, there have been many bilateral agreements between cities. An agreement was signed with Madrid and with Toulouse in 2019. There are advertising exchanges and they are maintained, but with this situation it is complex. There are a number of cities with which we had advanced the issue, but at the moment we do not consider it responsible to travel there to sign agreements of this type and to carry out dissemination actions of this type that cannot have a clear return.
What is the next step to take in promoting Zaragoza as a tourist destination?
The first thing is that we have adapted to the situation at all times. The Zaragoza Tourism team has worked at 200% and continues to give its all. We were the first area to be certified in good practices by Aenor, although it was not very well publicised because it coincided with the first outbreak or second wave of the summer. We adapt to changes in capacity and the number of people allowed on guided tours, and our capacity to react is immediate. We have been working for a year now on Zaragoza Turismo’s digital strategy and generating more traffic in the destination. We are finishing the implementation of the CRM. Zaragoza Congresos is the first Convention Bureau to have pioneered the implementation of the Eventsost Key methodology, a tool that measures the sustainability of the events held in the city. We have been working on these things for many months and the pandemic has allowed us to look inwards and work on all this. At the same time we have been helping the whole tourism sector with agreements and activities.
Any event you organise in Zaragoza is a guarantee of success. We can remember events such as the presentation of the Volkswagen Golf in the Water Tower, where a huge number of people from all over the world came and were extremely satisfied. What worries me personally and should worry us all is that all the effort it has taken to achieve such a competitive offer should not be able to maintain it in this situation and that our hotel and gastronomic capacity should be reduced and that the facilities could suffer. The relationship between the Board, the Vice-Mayor’s Office and the sector is instantaneous, with a close relationship.