(WTO) is convinced that the terrorist attacks on Madrid should not have dramatic impacts on the Spanish tourism industry.
“It’s still early to assess the consequences for tourism, but we do not think they will be so damaging,” said the WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli after the closure of the International Tourism Fair (ITB) in Berlin, which finished on 16 March. “It was an attack against Spanish democracy and the people living in Madrid, not against the Spanish tourism industry or foreign tourists” he stressed. Spain and its capital Madrid have been hosts to WTO since 1976.
He also pointed out that the attacks in the October 2002 explosion in a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people or similar attacks the same year in Kenya and Tunisia, which were aimed at foreign visitors, are not comparable. They were of a different nature.
“Easter is an important week in Spain, but we are still far from the summer season and the phenomenon of late bookings is very important. So consumers still have a lot of time for choosing their destination” he said. Spain - the world’s second destination after France - was visited by 52.5 million foreign tourists in 2003 (growth of 0.3 per cent) and increased its international tourism receipts by 3.7 per cent to 36.9 billion euros.
“We are firmly convinced that the Spanish tourism industry will show ability to overcome this tragic event” Mr. Frangialli stressed. “Spanish tourism has changed dramatically in the last decade, it became much more diversified and is, thus, less vulnerable. Spain is no longer a ‘sea, sun, sand’ destination, but a powerful player in the international market, with a developed meetings industry, culture, gastronomy, famous pilgrimages like the one to Santiago de Compostela. Tourists visit it all year around, not only in the summer and during events like the Forum in Barcelona, which is expected to attract five million visitors.”
“There are many indications that this tragedy takes place at a moment when the prospects of worldwide tourism are improving. The consequences of the attacks should not hinder the positive trend” underlined Mr. Frangialli. “It could delay or reduce it marginally, but we believe we are on the path to recovery… back to the trend of four to five percent.” WTO has identified late booking, shorter breaks and more domestic and regional travel, as increasing trends. According to ITB organizers, there were no noteworthy cancellations to Spain by tour operators for the summer season. Furthermore, many more tourists are coming to Spain individually, by their own means of transportation and they make decisions very late, in May or June or even only a few days before their actual holidays.
ITB confirmed the expectations of the WTO Panel of Tourism Experts, published in the “World Tourism Barometer”, which expect the international tourism to recover in 2004 after a three-year period of crises and uncertainty.
“Unprecedented solidarity shown by the tourism industry with Spain at the ITB recalled the human dimension of tourism” Mr. Frangialli concluded. “We will not and cannot allow terrorism to prevail, reintroducing fear and uncertainty in the rebounding international tourism market.”
Mr. Frangialli expressed his and the Organization’s condolences and sympathies to the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms. Ana Palacio and the Tourism Secretary, Mr. German Porras immediately after learning about the attacks and offered the full support of the Organization.