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Malaga’s Mayor Reveals Why the City Is Going to Be European Capital of Smart Tourism

Being European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 will allow Malaga “to serve as an inspiration for other tourist destinations throughout Europe, promote the city’s profile as a tourist destination, boost visitors number to generate economic growth.” The city’s Mayor, Francisco de la Torre, explains in this interview why Malaga has been chosen (along with Gothenburg) as European Capital of Smart Tourism and explains the main actions planned by the city council.

19 Dec 2019

What does it mean for Malaga to be recognised by the European Commission as European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2020?

The European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 award is a unique opportunity. We’re planning major communication activities to put the city on the map of smart tourism destinations and Malaga will increase its visibility as a pioneer of this type of tourism in the European Union. This award by the European Commission is for all the people of Malaga who have worked to make our city one of Europe’s best-known tourist destinations today.

Today, thanks to the transformation that Malaga has undergone, we are recognised as a leading destination in accessibility, sustainability, digitalisation & cultural heritage and creativity. Obviously, the award will also encourage us to keep working, to be better prepared for the challenges facing the tourism industry.

Malaga has been integrating the concepts of sustainability, innovation and culture in its strategic plans for many years. Today we can proudly say that Malaga offers everything that travellers and residents need to enjoy the city. In terms of sustainability, for example, Malaga works in all areas. It’s an accessible city, too. The European Commission itself recognised us last year with its award in that area.

Have museums been a key element in boosting its tourism provision?

Malaga has become the city of museums. In just two decades the city has gone from having four exhibition spaces to nearly forty. Many old buildings and their surroundings have been converted into vibrant cultural venues. Likewise, we have a very rich natural offering. All this makes Malaga one of the most dynamic destinations in Europe. The work done in all these areas led to us being noticed even by the United Nations, which through its UNITAR agency, has chosen Malaga for its CIFAL specialist training centre for sustainable tourism.

Being European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 will allow the city to serve as an inspiration for other tourist destinations throughout Europe, promote the city’s profile as a tourist destination, boost visitors number to generate economic growth. But we always do these things in a way that strives for the greatest well-being of the city’s residents.

What new actions is the city going to carry out in this regard?

During the year we’re going to launch a large number of activities. Some will be very much related to the city’s image, such as the communication campaign and the sculpture that will remind all Malagueños and visitors that we’re the European Capital of Smart Tourism. But there are many other activities, related to the market, promotion projects and, of course, training and technology.

In this respect, in 2020 we’re committed to using the EU emblem on all our press releases, incorporating the award in new issues of our promotional material, creating a destination-specific website, reproducing the branding throughout the tourist information network, installing promotional items on public streets and digital screens with continuous display of promotional messages and videos, and producing a specific monthly information programme on local radio and television stations.

We’ll also organize two international conferences on smart tourism in February and November, and professional workshops and networking meetings with sector professionals. We will also extend the chatbot tool ‘Victoria the Malagueña’, which has a conversational interface that answers questions about the European Capital of Smart Tourism. We’ll create a smart tourism business accelerator focusing on virtual and augmented reality projects, gamification and new technologies. We are also going to launch a special edition of the Malaga Pass tourist card, and we’ll be holding an international hackathon for European smart tourism start-ups.

Finally, this year we will also be running quarterly educational seminars for each category, targeting different stakeholders (schools, universities, associations and the general public), and holding monthly briefings on each of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What other projects do you plan in the tourism field?

This year is going to be especially important for tourism in Malaga. As well as being European Smart Tourism Capital, in 2020 we will host Seatrade Med, the most important tourist fair for the cruise segment, and on 25th January we will host the Goya cinema awards gala, and in June the Max theatre awards. Recently, Malaga’s world-famous actor, Antonio Banderas, has opened the Soho Theatre, which will become a new cultural attraction for the city.

But Malaga won’t stop there. We’re already laying solid foundations for maintaining the growth in our tourism sector. That’s why we are currently working on implementing a new Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism. The Plan includes lines of work on digital transformation, the circular economy and Sustainable Development Goals, a comprehensive communication strategy for our brand and opening Malaga to new tourist markets.

To achieve all these goals we are going to draw up a strategic online communications plan for the year. This will include custom communication campaigns for each target group using Big Data tools, including the city in UNWTO’s Tourism for SDGs Platform, and developing branding for the city in all the areas in which we are present to convey the idea that Malaga is a city to visit, live in and invest in. These are just some of the projects we have underway for this year, but there are many more. It’s about working as we have been.

What is the city’s tourism forecast for 2020?

The outlook is really positive. Even with a slower scenario, the number of travellers staying in Malaga will be up more than 5% this year. That’s not a bad figure, especially bearing in mind that we’ve had a decade of continuous growth, which has placed Malaga among Spain’s leading tourist destinations. We’ve broken records for all indicators over the last three years. And in 2019 we’ve grown by all measures, demonstrating our enormous strength as a destination.

What will FITUR visitors be able to see at the Malaga stand?

Malaga will be at FITUR looking for new market niches where it can boost its growth, after the excellent results it achieved last year. To do this, we’re going to take advantage of this important event to showcase the city’s new products linked to food, sports, nature, fashion and shopping, but without losing sight of the important cultural segment, which is our star product. In short, we’re going to continue focusing on the promotion that’s giving us such good results: an offering suited to all the different tourist profiles. In this respect, at FITUR Malaga will focus on the traditional pillars of its tourism (culture, cruises, languages and conferences) but also emphasizing new attractions that make the city one of the most dynamic destinations in the country.

We’ve completely redesigned Malaga’s stand at FITUR to be more modern and dynamic. It will be a space designed for working with trade visitors, but also for consumers attending the fair at the weekend, and we’ll have a wide selection of powerful images of the city’s cultural amenities and landmarks. As usual, Malaga will be at the Fair with a very full agenda of meetings, almost a hundred this year. And we’ll be presenting some of our new developments at the Fair and some of the leisure and cultural attractions that make Malaga an attractive destination all year round.