The Canary Islands, 2nd most competitive tourist region in Spain

The Canary Islands rank as Spain's second most competitive tourist region, excelling in sustainability and diversification, just behind Madrid.

The Canary Islands have secured the position of the second most competitive tourist region in Spain, trailing only behind Madrid. This achievement is highlighted in a new ranking of tourism competitiveness across Spanish regions by the Alliance for Tourism Excellence (Exceltur).

The improvement in the economic outcomes of tourism in the Canary Islands is attributed to the enrichment and diversification of its tourism offerings, alongside significant advancements in policies promoting environmental sustainability and connectivity. This report was unveiled on Tuesday in Madrid.

Madrid has now surpassed the Basque Country to become the leader in this year’s ranking, which evaluates regions based on a series of competitive criteria. Following Madrid and the Canary Islands are the Basque Country, the Balearic Islands, and Andalusia, comprising the top five in the list. Other communities ranked include Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Asturias (listed twice possibly in error), Cantabria, and Galicia, with Castile and Leon, Castile-La Mancha, Aragon, La Rioja, Navarre, and Extremadura completing the roster.

The Canary Islands, 2nd most competitive tourist region in Spain

The report also raises concerns regarding the allocation of budgets for tourism by the Spanish autonomous communities, which currently stands at a mere 0.3% of their total budgets. This minimal investment is seen as insufficient given tourism’s significant contribution of more than 12% to the economies of these communities. Additionally, it notes that only two out of the seventeen regions have dedicated departments for tourism, with most having their tourism department shared with other areas or directly managed under the presidency.

A single Spanish community boasts a dedicated inter-ministry commission for the coordination of tourism policies, underlining a systemic issue of fragmented policy management across the regions.

Gabriel Escarrer, president & CEO of Melia Hotels International and president of Exceltur, emphasized the need for a higher prioritization of tourism in regional budgets and called for a more integrated approach to address the sector’s challenges. Escarrer also criticized the missed opportunities with the Next Generation EU funds, which he claimed were not allocated to sufficiently transformative projects.

The Canary Islands, 2nd most competitive tourist region in Spain

He highlighted the absence of a clear strategic direction for the Spanish tourism model and expressed concerns over the regulation of tourist accommodations and the prevalence of illegal offerings.

Escarrer advocates for public and private policies that effectively meet the expectations of local communities, protect natural resources, and uphold cultural values, which he believes are essential for sustaining tourism and enhancing the sector’s reputation.

Madrid at the Top of the Ranking followed by the Canary Islands

Madrid leads the ranking, driven by the private sector’s dynamism and recent advances in tourism policies. The community is recognized for its exceptional connectivity and vibrant initiatives in culture, gastronomy, shopping, and events, supported by high-value hotel accommodations and a robust business travel sector.

Oscar Perelli, director of Exceltur’s Studies and Research Area, notes that these strengths have been increasingly prioritized by the community government since 2018, leading to enhanced management professionalism, increased tourism budget, and more integrated promotion efforts involving the private sector through platforms like Ifema.

However, the report warns that Madrid could face challenges from an excessive growth in tourist numbers unless it enforces stricter regulations on tourist housing and invests in adequate control measures.

The Canary Islands, 2nd most competitive tourist region in Spain

Other regions like the Balearic Islands have shown improvement in sustainability efforts due to strong private investment following legislative changes in 2012. Regions like Murcia have enhanced their tourism policies, particularly in product clubs and online marketing, which could lead to better economic outcomes in the long term.

The report points out that only 13 of the 17 regions have strategic tourism plans in place, and even fewer have committed budgets or specific schedules for implementation. Exceltur criticizes the lack of coordination between the autonomous regions and the national government, as well as the waning intensity of public-private partnerships.

Despite these challenges, there has been progress in structuring tourism offers more coherently, reducing environmental footprints, and improving the integration of tourism policies with local community expectations and cultural preservation.

Exceltur remains optimistic about the improvements in tourism management and the alignment of initiatives with tourist motivations, highlighting a commitment across Spanish destinations to enhance tourism information and knowledge.

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