The Chairmen of AEDH, FETAVE and Hostelería de España, the Secretary-General of CEHAT and the head of tourism at PwC consulting explained how we can do it.
César Gutiérrez is Chairman of FETAVE (Regional Business Federation of Spanish Travel Agencies). He explained that it will be essential to make Spain “a safe destination” and to communicate effectively “why we are safe.” Also, Spain will have to convey an image of certainty and calm: “Any international tourists who are thinking about travelling to Spain must be made aware, clearly and simply, about the situation, they will find at their chosen destination, and what small adjustments they will have to make in their usual behaviour, to avoid any surprises. And if for any reason we have to reimpose restrictions, we have to give them peace of mind, that can change or cancel their reservation without any problems.”
To do this, “we have to apply clear, accurate and uniform measures to protect people’s health and keep our status as a safe and responsible destination.” The second step, which should be taken as quickly as possible, is “to promote Spain abroad with a message that conveys, among other qualities, Spain’s safety as a destination as regards COVID‑19.” And thirdly, “it is essential that travel agencies and tour operators provide detailed advice about the new normal, and the small changes to daily habits it entails, as well as making changes to reservations as flexible as possible, to give travellers confidence and peace of mind.
The Growing Importance of Branding
Hotels will play a fundamental role in winning back tourists’ trust. Manuel Vegas is Chairman of the Spanish Association of Hotel Managers (AEDH). He stressed the importance of “knowing how to get the message across to customers about what we are doing to protect their safety and that of our staff.” He added that, as well as always following thorough cleanliness protocols, “we have to exceed expectations, manage hospitality, and create a good perception.”
Cayetano Soler is a tourism expert with consulting firm PwC. He affirmed that, from now on, hotels’ brands are going to be more relevant than ever. “The brand will reassure guests about compliance with the different health and hygiene protocols.” So, “doing a good job nurturing a brand linked that guests associate with safety and hygiene issues and compliance with official protocols is going to be fundamental.” This change will mean that “certain brands are going to position themselves as more relevant to customers, as businesses that have done a good job in resolving a complex situation like this.”
Restaurants will also be a key segment in the new relationship with tourists. José Luis Yzuel is chairman of Hostelería de España. He said that it is essential that customers “once again feel like our premises are another part of their own homes.” To achieve this, “during this new phase, we will really need better information about our customers, because they will be more selective and look for establishments they can trust and where they feel safe. And, they will choose places they know and where they’ve been satisfied.” On the other hand, “we’ll need promotional campaigns to boost consumption and tourism, and advertising campaigns to overcome people’s fear of bars and restaurants.”
Yzuel explained that Hostelería de España offers all establishments a Comprehensive Accreditation System for safe restaurants and accommodation. It “offers a comprehensive package of services and products that enable them to comply with and monitor the requirements for COVID‑19-safe restaurant and bars.” Among other issues, “staff must undergo specific training and businesses have to sign a commitment to comply with prevention requirements.” The association took the initiative to produce the “Safe Hospitality Guide” in coordination with the Institute for Spanish Tourism Quality (ICTE).
In the short term, there are still some issues to be resolved before tourists can regain complete confidence in Spanish destinations. Ramón Estalella, Secretary-General of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT), said that “what we need is rational thinking.” And he called for “a Europe-wide agreement on what measures to take because until now the countries around us have been much more serious about health criteria than ours has”, which, he added, has also affected communication around tourism.