In Europe, the tourism fallout from the terror attacks that struck the continent in recent years is promising to give secondary destinations their time in the spotlight, says Monaco’s NTO as it spearheads a multi-destination campaign in South-east Asia.
Among the factors that have kept Europe’s second-tier destinations in the shadows for years is how “(travel) agencies – generally not known as movers and shakers – would shun smaller destinations for capital cities and national airline hubs, more able to serve their streamlined and standardised business model”, according to Benoit Badufle, regional director, Monaco Government Tourist Bureau (Asia Office).
Badufle conceded: “The big capital cities in Europe enjoy a disproportionate share of the market, leaving second-tier cities, often more reliant on tourism resources, with the crumbs of that cake.”
However, the tourism crisis brought on by attacks in capital cities in 2015 and 2016 not only demonstrated the importance of spreading risks beyond key gateways, but also presented an opportunity for secondary destinations to make their mark.
Ready to turn the crisis around and “make it an opportunity”, Monaco Government Tourist Bureau partnered Atout France and Spain Tourism Board – along with the Catalonia region, Avis Car Rental and Turkish Airlines – to roll out the Mediterranean Luxe campaign in South-east Asia last month.
“Many tour operators in Asia were for years (offering the same European cities) over and over again. But there was such a drop in 2016 that they had to do something about it. This became the right time to introduce destinations within European not affected by the crisis – so no Paris, London or Berlin,” Badufle shared.
Through the Mediterranean Luxe campaign, Badufle said the partners “want to bring travel industry partners together to develop new ideas and utilise tourist resources that have not received the attention they merit”.
A month into the campaign’s launch, the partners are drumming up interest for off-the-beaten-path Europe holidays, such as flexible self-drive experiences through Ibiza, Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes and Monaco.
Badufle continued: “In the second phase, we hope to run workshops or roadshows in South-east Asia and (spotlight) more concrete products including hotels, regional or municipal tourist offices, park attractions or cultural sites.”
For Monaco, South-east Asia is a strategic choice for a campaign like Mediterranean Luxe, said Badufle.
The combined outbound volume from South-east Asia is comparable to that of China, he remarked, adding that more of the region’s travellers are maturing and beginning to seek out European destinations beyond the must-sees for first-time visitors.
“Indonesia is important for its sheer size and Singapore (for its relative affluence), but even emerging markets such as Vietnam are beginning to produce a growing number of repeat travellers to Europe,” he said.
At the same time, the rise of new hubs between South-east Asia and Europe is allowing many of the region’s seasoned travellers to bypass European gateway cities, which they were likely to have already visited.
Badufle noted: “About 10 years ago, you still have to go through Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. to fly to places such as Marseille, Florence, Valencia and Barcelona. Now you no longer have to with new routes such as via Dubai and Istanbul.”
There is also growing intra-Europe access, which helps connect travellers to smaller European destinations. “A lot of countries such as Spain and Italy have seen the development of low-cost routes bringing people to Barcelona and Marseille,” Badufle added.