Spanish-Portuguese agreement on caring for tourism for economic, environmental and social development

Sánchez Llibre announces that Catalan businessmen want to return to leading the Spanish economy, and Núñez Feijóo calls for political changes with "a reformist vocation and more action instead of an obsession with resistance"
El futuro del turismo en las ciudades españolas y portuguesas - All in One Caixabank, Madrid
The future of tourism in Spanish and Portuguese cities - All in One Caixabank, Madrid

 The way Spanish politics is overflowing with mud, it is rare, rare, rare that a day of debate is opened by a minister of Pedro Sánchez's government and closed by the head of the opposition. Well, such an extraordinary event took place at Caixabank's All in One space in Madrid, considered to be the largest experimental banking space in Europe.  

The topic of debate was the future of tourism in Spanish and Portuguese cities, organised by the Barcelona Society of Economic and Social Studies (SBEES) of Foment del Treball, an entity chaired by Josep Sánchez Llibre. A Minister of Industry and Tourism, Jordi Hereu, to inaugurate the day; a former almost everything, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, to moderate the debates; the mayors of Malaga, Madrid, Oporto and Cascais, as well as the presidents of Turisme Barcelona, Jordi Clos, and of the Confederation of Business Associations of the Balearic Islands (CAEB), Carmen Planas, to discuss the most pressing and common problems of tourism, and a politician, head of the opposition, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, to close a meeting that was also attended by a hundred businessmen and leaders of the sector.

Jordi Hereu stressed that "more than one hundred million international tourists (85 million, Spain, and 18 million, Portugal) have visited the Iberian Peninsula in the last year", a number that places it at the head of the world, which should make the cities of both countries "the epicentre of the strategic debate on what we want the tourism model of the future to be". To this end, he placed special emphasis on the need for everyone to work on this model in accordance with a triple sustainability: economic, environmental and social. 

Jordi Hereu - El futuro del turismo en las ciudades españolas y portuguesas - All in One Caixabank, Madrid
Jordi Hereu - The future of tourism in Spanish and Portuguese cities - All in One Caixabank, Madrid

In his speech, Josep Sánchez Llibre, President of SBEES, recalled the figure of the politician and philanthropist Francesc Cambó, the man who imagined a great Catalonia within a great Spain, before announcing that "Catalan businessmen, modestly, but with every ambition, want to return to leading the Spanish economy". He justified this aspiration by saying that "when the Western world is undergoing transcendental social changes, we businessmen cannot fail to contribute our ideas".

The moderator of the debates, Alberto Ruíz Gallardón, former Minister of Justice, former President and former Mayor of Madrid, launched a reflection for discussion: the paradox that Spain and Portugal, together the world's leading tourist destination, experience a certain social rejection of mass tourism.  

Josep Sánchez Llibre - El futuro del turismo en las ciudades españolas y portuguesas - All in One Caixabank, Madrid
Josep Sánchez Llibre - The future of tourism in Spanish and Portuguese cities - All in One Caixabank, Madrid

It was the Mayor of Málaga, Francisco de la Torre, who was the first to take up the gauntlet, explaining that his constant objective was and is "to make a city that is good for its citizens, attractive for the people of Málaga", which is achieved by focusing on excellence and quality, especially in the training of all the workers who in one way or another work in or are related to the tourism sector.  

A similar argument was put forward by the mayor of the Spanish capital, José Luis Martínez-Almeida: "Madrid has to be the best city to live in because then it will be the best city to come to". Although he confessed to being "a scholar of the maestro De la Torre as mayor, he disagreed with him on the subject of the tourist tax, a tax that several cities have already introduced and others are in the process of doing so. Martínez-Almeida stressed that the fiscal, legal and financial universe created by Madrid makes it very difficult, not to say absolutely counterproductive, to legislate such a tax.  

Rui de Carvalho, president of the Municipal Chamber of Oporto, who apologised for speaking in "portuñol" although his command of the Spanish language is impeccable, pointed out that "we have gone from fishing for tourists with a net to wanting to do it with a rod and choosing the fish very carefully", before explaining that tourism is an impossible activity without entrepreneurs who are not only allowed to develop their ideas, but who are also encouraged and supported, "because without companies there is no tourism".  

Asked about the high-speed rail lines, the Mayor of Oporto demanded a real cross-border cooperation, "without politicians announcing unrealistic fantasies". He pointed out that the peninsula has to be considered, from the infrastructures point of view, as a city, whose neighbourhoods have to be connected by metro lines. "And our metro is, for example, a railway line between La Coruña and Setúbal".  

Alberto Núñez-Feijóo - El futuro del turismo en las ciudades españolas y portuguesas - All in One Caixabank, Madrid
Alberto Núñez-Feijóo - The future of tourism in Spanish and Portuguese cities - All in One Caixabank, Madrid

His compatriot Carlos Carreiras, president of the Municipal Chamber of Cascais, stressed the need to look after the internal tourist market and respect one's own identity, in addition to supporting culture through tourism of excellence.  

Jordi Clos, who chairs both Turisme Barcelona and the Catalan capital's Gremi d'Hotels, revived an idea that he said he had been promoting for many years, apparently with unsuccessful results: "It is not sensible that, for example, in the face of the growing number of tourists from Asia with great purchasing power, two spectacular and complementary cities like Madrid and Barcelona should not go hand in hand when competing with other cities in Europe or the United States".  

And finally, Carmen Planas, president of the CAEB, set as the main challenge the transformation of the sector through innovation, digitalisation and circularity, proposing to extend the tourist season as much as possible, distributing tourists in space and time: "We have to change volume for value", she concluded.  

In summary, the conference addressed several crucial aspects, such as the training of workers in the tourism sector, the management of the tourist tax for its redistribution for the benefit of cities, the promotion of a regenerative tourism that minimises its negative impact and contributes to the improvement of local resources, as well as the boost in terms of civility, sustainability and safety of tourists. The importance of collaboration between the tourism sector, culture and sport was also highlighted, as well as technological advances as drivers of development and modernisation of the sector.  

As mentioned at the beginning, the closing speech of the conference was given by the President of the Partido Popular, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, who, after emphasising that "we are already much more than the best in sun and beach tourism", pointed out that "our greatest strength is our capacity to take advantage of opportunities, correct weaknesses and confront threats". He gave the tourism sector as an example, pointing to the need for "all sectors to perform similarly in economic terms, in terms of growth and expectations for the future".  

He did not disappoint those who were expecting messages relating to current political affairs: "We must help people who take risks, because it is ideas and initiatives that can be put into practice that create wealth". He called for structural reforms, including a change in education and energy policies, with a "reformist vocation and less obsession with resisting [in power] and more with acting". He said he wanted to end with a message of optimism and confidence, because "Spain can be one of the best places in the world to invest".