The Lehendakari meets with the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization
Iñigo Urkullu and Taleb Rifai call for sustainable tourism that contributes to the economic, social and cultural development of peoples
Lehendakari Iñigo Urkullu, the Basque Premier, met this morning with the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation-UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, who is currently visiting the Basque Country. Yolanda Perdomo, Director of the UNWTO Affiliate Members Programme, and Arantxa Tapia, the Basque Government’s Minister for Economic Development and Competitiveness, were also present.
The meeting was an opportunity to analyse the partnership framework between the Basque Country and this UN organisation, of which the Basque Tourism Agency-Basquetour is an affiliate member. They also discussed areas of common interest, such as tourism’s contribution to culture and peace – as part of the DSS2016 European Capital of Culture-, the culinary culture of the Basque Country and sustainable tourism.
In the press conference following the meeting, Minister Tapia and the UNWTO Secretary General went over the milestones, including the world summit organised by Basquetour – in conjunction with several international agencies – which was held in November 2015. The new World Charter for Sustainable Tourism was unveiled during that summit and the charter recognises tourism as the main industry of the world and an essential factor for the economic, social and cultural development of peoples.
The Minister for Economic Development and Competitiveness, Arantxa Tapia, stressed the Basque Government’s commitment to tourism as a “key” sector and which, as she explained, requires “strategy and planning”. Tapia recalled that the Basque Country already has a Strategic Tourism Plan 2020 which is a guide for Basque companies to be more competitive and to position the Euskadi/Basque Country destination. However, according to the Minister, tourism cannot be grown in a haphazard manner and she therefore stressed the Government’s commitment to the UNWTO to drive sustainable tourism.
Importance of tourism in the Basque economy
During her speech, the Minister went into several aspects that show the importance of tourism in the Basque Country.
- In 2014, tourism accounted for nearly 6% of the GDP, with a contribution of EUR 3,922 million to the Basque economy. The sector has a total of 21,669 companies, which account for 12.3% of the total companies in the Basque Country.
- In 2015, the number of visitors posted all time highs in terms of arrivals and overnight stays, with more than three million visitors being recorded. 3,012,700 people stayed in hotels, rural accommodation, tourist apartments and camping sites (+9.8% on 2014). Furthermore, 6,147,473 people stayed overnight (+9.6% on 2014)
- This growth can be seen in all the provinces. The figures for all the provincial capitals were up: Vitoria-Gasteiz (+6.1% visitor arrivals +4.7% overnight stays), Bilbao (+9.6% visitor arrivals and +8.1% overnight stays) and Donostia- San Sebastián (+10.7% visitor arrivals and +12.5% overnight stays).
- In the Basque Country, tourists from Spain accounted for 60% of the total and the remaining 40% were from abroad. Regarding the State figures, internal tourism, involving residents of the BAC, accounted for 15%. In 2015, State tourism was up by 8.4% in terms of number of visitors and foreign tourism by 12%. The presence of international tourism is increasingly greater.
- The main tourist markets for the Basque Country are: Madrid, Catalonia, France, the UK, Germany and the USA.
Schedule of the UNWTO executive
The schedule while the head of the UNWTO and his team are in the Basque Country also includes a meeting with the Speaker of the Basque Parliament and a meeting with the tourism and external action authorities of the Basque Country when the Basque strategy for this sector will be outlined.