September 06, 2017

By Gonzalo López Martí - Creative director, etc /

  • Spain is undergoing a national frenzy of “turismofobia”.
  • That’d be “tourism phobia”, loosely translated.
  • See, Spain is the #1 tourist destination in Europe (#2 worldwide after the US).
  • However, after selling paella & partying for decades now, a lot of Spaniards are having second thoughts.
  • They’d love to change their brand and their image.
  • To lure a different kind of tourist.
  • Less noisy, more polished, hopefully with higher disposable income.
  • More upscale, if you will.
  • To be sure, in recent years Spain seriously upped the ante on the cuisine front.
  • The molecular gastronomy movement was certainly a global home run.
  • But still.
  • After all these years, the country’s image is inextricably bound to assorted drunkfests such as the San Fermín bull runs and the Tomatina (thousands of people hurling tomatoes at one another).
  • See, Spain tried for years to be all things to all people and it achieved it: a haven for foodies, wine enthusiasts, art & architecture lovers, history buffs, nudists and fans of electronic dance music.
  • It paid off?
  • You bet it paid off.
  • But be careful what you wish for.
  • When a country tries so hard to project an image of non-judgemental open-mindedness where anything goes, well, it tends to attract a crowd of colorful, and sometimes rowdy, iconoclats.
  • With a limited budget.
  • When one is the European mecca of nudist beaches and 24-hours partying, old hippies in mobile homes and assorted eccentrics will inevitably wash up on one’s shores.
  • From a marketing and branding perspective, there’s no short term solution or easy way out.
  • Spain has been building its brand around bulls, food, fun and sun for almost 6 decades now.
  • Now that’s what I call staying on message!
  • The brand is just too ingrained.
  • What happens in Spain has stayed in Spain for quite a while now.
  • How long would it take for Spain to shed its image of paella & partying?
  • Shifting course would demand a massive change of mentality and reallocation of resources.
  • It took Toyota close to ten years to carve a niche for itself in the luxury auto segment.
  • And they had to launch a totally new brand to achieve it (that’d be Lexus).
  • Can Spain become Switzerland or Sweden in, say, five years.
  • Hardly.
  • They can try though and they certainly should.
  • Unbeknownst to a lot of people who descend upon its coasts to overeat, overdrink and roast their private parts under the sun on some of its long, winding and breathtaking stretches of beach, Spain offers world class skiing, trekking, rock climbing, horseback riding and even hunting.
  • Plus diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, surfing and kite surfing.
  • There are lots of spas and bucolic boutique hotels away from the noise.
  • Amazing ancient sites, national parks and natural reserves.
  • In the balmiest of weathers.
  • Could Spain change tack and attempt to attract the upscale health & wellness tourist, a captive audience of the Swiss and the French since forever?
  • Could noisy Spain become SPAin? (wink wink nudge nudge)
  • To be continued.


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