Seville looks to Asian markets for tourism growth as city gains prominence

Plaza Espana, Seville

Seville appears to be finding its place in the sun on the global travel map, as several key events come together to give more prominence to the capital city of southern Spain’s Andalusia region.

Not only will Spain celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe – the Magellan-Elcano expedition set sail from Seville in 1519 – with a three-year programme of activities beginning in 2019, the WTTC Summit will also take place in Seville this April, making it an opportune time for the city to raise its awareness among Asia outbound travellers, said Antonio Jimenez, managing director of the Seville Tourism Board, speaking to TTG Asia in a recent phone interview.

Plaza Espana, Seville

Jimenez expects the WTTC Summit will help to expand opportunities for the city, attracting attending companies to invest in the local tourism sector, including from Asia.

Asia represents a “very important market” that currently represents 10 per cent of Seville’s inbound figures, translating to 3.9 million visitors each year, shared Jimenez.

A two-pronged strategy has been mapped out to woo more visitors from Asia, which will see the tourism board promoting Seville through PR marketing and working with big tour operators, while it works on attracting direct flights from key hubs like Istanbul and Dubai to improve connectivity with Asia.

There is currently no direct flight linking Asia to Seville, although Jimenez is seeking to change that in the near future. Emirates and Etihad Airways – which are members of WTTC – are looking at launching flights to Seville, he informed.

According to Jimenez, some five million euros (US$5.7 million) has been allocated to the board for global promotion of Seville, of which 20 per cent of the budget is dedicated to the Asian and North American markets.

India and China, the two outbound tourism powerhouses, are obvious targets for Asia for Seville, with different aspects of its tourism offerings – founded on the four main pillars in gastronomy, heritage and culture, flamenco, and lifestyle – emphasised for different markets.

With extensive promotion rolled out in India and Madrid – just an hour’s flight away – having direct connections from Delhi and Kolkata, Indian arrivals have “increased a lot to Seville”. Furthermore, Seville’s flamenco culture appeals especially to the Indian market, Jimenez shared.

In China, the Seville Tourism Board has in last two years organised two roadshows to promote Seville’s heritage across different Chinese cities, in addition to attending ILTM in China and Singapore.

As a member of World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF), Seville recently hosted the WTCF Europe Tourism Conference from December 10 to 12, with Chinese delegates and companies invited to learn more about its heritage and entice investment in Spain.

Aware of the pitfalls that mass tourism has brought to Spanish cities like Barcelona, Jimenez is keen to pursue “quality tourism” for Seville. He remarked: “Seville is a medium-size city, so we are very conscious of growth as it has to be quality.

“We’re not interested in building more hotels but to increase the quality of visitors as well as to grow the luxury sector. We hope to attract big luxury brands like Four Seasons or InterContinental to build a hotel in Seville,” he told TTG Asia.

Cruise tourism will be another area that Jimenez will push to grow by attracting luxury boats of less than 2,000 pax to call at the Seville port.

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