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Enrique Ossorio (Madrid Region): “Covid has speeded up tourism challenges like sustainability, digitalisation and personalisation”

We're undergoing a paradigm shift, not just in tourism, but in all sectors involved in different tourism-related experiences

Enrique Ossorio, Minister for Education and Young People, is acting head of Tourism with Madrid Regional Government. We discussed with him the challenges facing the sector in the years ahead, and how Madrid, a Fitur 2021 Partner, is working to position itself as an international destination of destinations. "We're designing the future of tourism," Ossorio says.

07 May 2021

Enrique Ossorio (Madrid Region): “Covid has speeded up tourism challenges like sustainability, digitalisation and personalisation.”

We’re undergoing a paradigm shift, not just in tourism but in all sectors involved in different tourism-related experiences: sectors like culture, food, mobility, active tourism, leisure alternatives. Enrique Ossorio, Minister for Education and Young People, is acting head of Tourism with Madrid Regional Government. We discussed the challenges facing the sector in the years ahead and how Madrid, a Fitur 2021 Partner, is working to position itself as an international destination of destinations. “We’re designing the future of tourism,” Ossorio says.

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What does it mean for the Madrid Region, Fitur’s host city since it began, to be a Fitur Partner at this edition of the Fair, after the pandemic?

When FITUR asked us to be the leading partner for this special edition, we thought it was a great opportunity and didn’t hesitate to accept it. It’s an excellent opportunity to put us back on the tourist map as an international leader and reach out to people in a more direct way, in an important forum like FITUR, to showcase all that the Madrid region offers as a destination of destinations. And, it’s an excellent showcase for publicising the Madrid Region’s new tourism model.

The tourism market’s increasingly demanding, and the public’s very well-informed. We have a wide variety of competitor destinations, so we have to be very creative and dynamic in what we offer. In designing our new tourism management strategy, the definition, creation, and development of the product will contribute tremendous added value. In this aspect, the Madrid region has a highly competitive offer that includes culture, heritage, nature, food, shopping and leisure. And for the second year in a row, we’ve been designated the Leading Meetings & Conference Destination in the 27th edition of the World Travel Awards.

As for the way we manage tourism, the Region’s strategy is for public-private collaboration and cooperation between different levels of government. It’s important to promote policies to guarantee legal certainty in a favourable environment for business growth and economic development and reduce paperwork as much as possible, which the Madrid Regional Executive is doing.

What are going to be the main challenges facing the tourism sector in the coming years?

Covid has brought forward all the challenges that were already on tourism’s agenda, such as sustainability, digitalisation and personalisation. And this has given rise to a new stage, one in which we’re beginning to design a new tourism model for the future. It’s a complex task because it spans across the sector and involves many actors, both public and private. So the major challenge ahead is to respond adequately to this new and different way of conceiving, managing and experiencing tourist destinations.

The new tourism model that we’re devising in the Madrid Region aims to ensure we stay competitive and maintain our leadership position. But, as well as responding to the sector’s own needs, it will undoubtedly also have to contribute to tourists’ demands for sustainable and increasingly digitalised activity.

To consolidate business robustness, we need a strategy that identifies the type of tourism to focus on and enables us to diversify and deseasonalise our product. But we also have to urgently give an economic boost to revitalise Madrid’s tourism businesses. And to do that, the Madrid Regional government has been working in recent months on new products and market niches (Destination Weddings) and a new tourism image for the wider region outside the capital (Greater Madrid), which we will be presenting at FITUR.

The sector already needs environmental and sustainability restructuring to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals. What kind of initiatives are being implemented in this area?

Environmental, territorial and socioeconomic sustainability was already part of the Madrid Region’s tourism management model. But now, after the pandemic, it’s become a social imperative that we can’t put off any longer. It’s vital for the transition towards a more inclusive and participatory model. And, on the other hand, tourism is a great way to promote cohesion between sectors of society, encouraging local economic development and the circular economy.

In recent years, in the Madrid Region, we’ve taken these factors into account when designing new tourism products. Perhaps the best example of this is the Villas de Madrid (Madrid historic towns) programme. The regional government has developed it in partnership with eleven towns in the Madrid region, based on the participatory development of the local economy and entrepreneurs.

Digitalisation means a shrinking role for many businesses in the tourism market. Still, it’s also an indispensable tool for revitalising it and transitioning towards a model of quality, sustainable, personalised tourism without overcrowding. So how can we ensure that all public and private agents can coexist in this reality of hyper-connected tourism?

It is clear that digitalisation, the Internet of things and smart tourism are here to stay. However, these factors also affect all phases of the travel cycle and the tourist experience, from inspiration, booking and preparation, logistics at origin and destination, and evaluation and recommendation in later stages of the trip.

The Madrid Regional Government wants digitalisation to go beyond just simplifying customer management processes. We want it to offer tourists a personalised and unique experience, from the moment they leave home, adapted to suit their preferences, to optimise their time and schedule their activities during their stay.

In short, digitalisation is essential for enabling tourism companies to identify their competitive advantages and optimise their business strategy and customer service.

And, digitalisation is inevitable as a service for the emerging digital tourist who uses the Web and social media to plan, book and share their experiences. This new kind of tourist is looking for unique, personalised experiences through multichannel services available 24/7.