What do you see as the biggest challenges for tourism in 2022?
The main challenge lies in working together to recover as a sector and to give a boost to companies which have suffered greatly as a result of months of lost turnover. To do this, we need to present a united front and assert the importance of tourism and its historic contribution to the economy and well-being of Spanish people. It’s now time to support a sector that’s been badly affected by the restrictions on mobility brought about by the pandemic; we need compensation for lost turnover, improvements in taxation, establishment of a demand support scheme, the launch of the Imserso programme and the effective distribution of European funds to ensure that they reach companies in the sector.
In this regard, how can travel agencies take advantage of Next Generation EU funding?
Tourism is one of the sectors which has been most heavily impacted by the crisis and we believe that these funds offer a highly significant opportunity for recovery, especially for travel agencies. What concerns us is that our business structure is very dispersed, with a large number of SMEs and microenterprises, with the result that many companies simply don’t have the resources to prepare applications to gain access to funds. It’s important to remember that 40% of travel agencies have fewer than two employees and 50% have fewer than six. Only the big agencies - which account for just 10% of the total - have the consultants and mechanisms on hand that can facilitate access to these funds.
In this respect, the Confederation is working on projects that can help get European aid to small agencies, basically using technological and digital means. This is the point that we’re trying to convey to the Administration, with the aim of ensuring that this aid can also effectively reach small businesses. It’s important to remember that if funds fail to reach them, they could be very vulnerable to competitive market conditions.
Besides this, what other challenges will travel agencies face over the coming years?
Travel agencies were already undergoing a process of transformation and also working on digitalisation. In this area, they’ve always relied on major technology partners and suppliers. But new technological developments still need to be implemented in a sector as complex as ours. It’s important to bear in mind that we handle more points of reference on tourism than any other sector (travel, flights, hotels, etc.), and these have to be ordered and inventoried to enable efficient, flexible access. And European funds offer a significant financial opportunity for undertaking this project.
How do you think FITUR will contribute to the recovery of the travel agency industry?
FITUR has always been an excellent platform for networking between the different tourism companies. As well as the many points of reference in our sector, there are also many ways to book hotels, flights, etc., and FITUR helps us to maintain direct contact with all our clients, suppliers and partners, and to establish new contracts. The travel agency sector is actively interconnected, and the trade fair helps us hold meetings and maintain our presence. It also marks the starting point of the season, pinpoints new trends, and offers an excellent platform for showcasing new products, catching up and interacting with clients and other suppliers.