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Homage to the Basque Country’s ambassadors for tourism

2011 February 28

This ceremony was the precursor to a campaign that will encourage every Basque Country resident to participate in the success of the region's tourist industry, in light of the outstanding results posted for 2010. The campaign will also highlight the importance of the role of Basque Country residents in ensuring that the pattern of growth continues after record numbers of tourists visited the Basque Country last year.

The Lehendakari, Patxi López, affirmed that promoting tourism "is a job that we must encourage citizens to become involved in, to make the Basque Country an even warmer and more welcoming destination". The ceremony, which took place at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, was hosted by Iñaki Gabilondo and África Baeta and included a musical performance from Ainhoa Arteta and speeches from Jon Sistiaga, Marcelinho Huertas and an anonymous Basque "ambassador".

"The Basque Country may be a young tourist destination, but it is clearly in the process of growing", said the Lehendakari, Patxi López, during the ceremony held at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to pay homage to the Basque Country's ambassadors for tourism. The ceremony was an opportunity to thank thousands of people, both anonymous and well-known, for their contribution to making 2010 the best year ever for tourism in the Basque Country.

However, in a statement intended for all Basque Country residents, the Lehendakari also said that "society as a whole must get involved in promoting tourism. Each and every one of us should, in our daily lives and to the best of our abilities, help to make the Basque Country an even more welcoming and attractive destination. All of us, whether institutions, companies or the general public, have a lot to contribute. Each and every one of the people that make up the Basque Country can and should help in achieving our goal". This idea, reflected in the motto "You count more than ever", was the central theme of the ceremony at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which was attended by over a thousand people.

Journalists Iñaki Gabilondo and África Baeta hosted the ceremony, while the Guggenheim Museum resonated to the sound of a live musical performance from the soprano Ainhoa Arteta.

The tourist sector in the Basque Country has continued to grow for the last 19 months, and the record numbers of tourists who visited the region in 2010 prompted the Basque Government to show its appreciation to those responsible. It also wanted to take the opportunity to encourage all Basque Country residents to get involved and help the tourist industry become a major player in the Basque economy.

To achieve this aim, and to continue the theme of the Guggenheim celebrations, this week the Basque Government will begin an awareness-raising campaign aimed at the whole of Basque society. The campaign intends to highlight the leading role played by Basque Country residents in achieving the goal of making the Basque Country an even more attractive, friendly and open destination for tourists.

Three "ambassadors"

Among the speeches given at the ceremony were those made by three important "ambassadors": Jon Sistiaga, a Basque journalist living outside the region who is constantly travelling; Marcelinho Huertas, who plays for the Caja Laboral-Baskonia basketball team and currently lives in Vitoria, having previously been a resident of Bilbao; and Marisol Aguirre, a lecturer at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and an anonymous Basque "ambassador".

Those attending the ceremony, who numbered over a thousand, included representatives from institutions and companies and from the worlds of sport and culture, in addition to a sizeable number of well-known "ambassadors". These included a significant proportion of Basque Government ministers, the Spanish Government Delegate to the Basque Country, over a dozen mayors from throughout the Basque Country and representatives of the region's major sports teams, such as Samuel Sánchez from the Euskaltel-Euskadi cycling team and representatives from Athletic Bilbao F.C. and Bilbao Basket.

Also attending the ceremony at the Guggenheim Museum was an impressively wide range of figures from the tourist and winemaking industries, along with a number of diplomats from the various consular offices in the Basque Country, a considerable number of Michelin-starred chefs (including Martín Berasategi), members of the band La Oreja de Van Gogh, orchestra conductor Inma Shara, fashion designer Modesto Lomba, journalist and former athlete Miguel de la Quadra-Salcedo, and many more. Also present were representatives from the commercial and communication sectors and businesspeople from other industrial sectors, including Miguel Lazpiur, the president of Confebask.

The ceremony was given a personal touch with the presentation of gifts from the winemakers of the Rioja Alavesa wine route to everyone attending.

The initiative to recruit "ambassadors" for the Basque Country has now attracted interest from over 2500 individuals, thanks to the website and the Facebook profile page "Yo también soy embajador/a de Euskadi" ("I'm an Ambassador for the Basque Country Too").

Amongst those giving their support to the initiative is a group of well-known figures who have volunteered to recount on video their experiences regarding the Basque Country. This group includes sportspeople such as Edurne Pasaban, Julio Salinas, Juanma López Iturriaga and the Caja Laboral-Baskonia basketball players Fernando San Emeterio, Brad Oleson and Marcelinho Huertas; figures from the world of culture and the arts such as Elías Querejeta, Amaia Montero, La Oreja de Van Gogh, Igor Yebra and Inma Shara; chefs Martín Berasategi and Karlos Argiñano; fashion designer Modesto Lomba; and media names such as Iñaki Gabilondo, Jon Sistiaga, Javier Hoyos and Miguel de la Quadra-Salcedo. All of them participated in the making of a video that was shown for the first time in January, at an event held at the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid.

In 2010 over 2.2 million tourists visited the Basque Country, setting a new record for the region. The best-ever year for the Basque tourist industry coincided with the development of new tourist-promotion policies underpinned by the new Marketing Plan approved a year ago, and was aided by the efforts made by the industry, the agreements signed by the Basque Government with Turespaña to promote the Basque Country abroad and the peaceful image the region now projects to the rest of the world.


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Politicians attending the event
(IX term 2009 - 2012)