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Orihuela Medieval Market

The Councillor for Tourism in Orihuela, Rosa Martínez, represented the municipality at a conference held at the headquarters of the Valencia Tourism Agency, with a view to promotes commerce, business associations and local and regional governments collaboration.

The aim of the overall conference was to promote growth in tourism, with the goal of increasing international visitors by 4.6% in 2014, and domestic tourism by 1.2%. In order to achieve this aim, there is some 32 million euro being invested for the general operating of the 2014 to 2015 campaign, with 4 million towards the regionally specific initiatives. Plus, 12 million for promotion, 5 million for communication, as well as 1.2 million to improve beaches and 2.4 million to help tourist towns standardise signage, and other informative infrastructure needs.

This massive investment is seen worthwhile, as tourism started to grow once again in 2013, after the lulls of the financial crisis, with the Costa Blanca becoming a favourite once more.

As previously reported, Benidorm has once again shown the overall lead in attracting visitors, with an average of 75.2% occupancy for 2013, 3 points above the same average figure of 2012, slightly more than the regional growth excluding Benidorm of 2.5%, with 56.1% overall occupancy. More importantly, as 2013 was coming to an end, the second half of December has resulted in the best average occupancy of the last six years with an average 60.8%, 5.4 points higher than last year.

However, although not too worrying as improvements are also being seen, the south of Alicante are only managed to average 25.5% occupancy, well below the overall average, which is why key locations like Orihuela and Torrevieja are crucial in playing a huge part in the next holiday year.

It is also perhaps not surprising that the Russian market has become a priority, especially given how the registered expat residents have seen Russians maintain second place for the second consequtive year, taking over Germans, which is why the specific campaign named, “Plan Rusia” became so important.

Since 2013, tourists arriving from Russia have increased by 44.3%, more than the arrival of tourists from Nordic countries, which has increased by 33.6 %. These two markets have also seen specific growth in and around Orihuela.

But it´s not just the volume of visitors that´s important, as the whole point of tourism from a business point of view is to increase revenue, it is the English and Scandinavian visitors who seem more ready to flash the cash, spending 11.4% more than the previous year, as opposed to those domestic tourists from Spain, who have maintained their spending levels.

The commitment to promote the area has not stopped with a single presentation. This week, in addition to the Valencia based initiative, Martínez also launched a series of talks at the University of Alicante, aimed at addressing the future of tourism on a more local level, presenting the inaugural talk under the banner description which explains Orihuela as a “driver” in tourism. These talks will focus on history and culture, for which Orihuela is rich in both, and will continue every Tuesday until the end of March.

Both the regional and local campaigns are also in preparation for one of the biggest events of its kind in Europe, the Feria Internacional de Turismo en España, or FITUR as it is more commonly known. Some 9,000 companies from 165 countries and locations have confirmed their participation in this year´s event, which takes place in Madrid this week. Known throughout the tourism industry as one of the major global markets, for the 34th time, the event will kick-start the summer and winter seasons with travel agents, businesses, tour operators and locations, and members of the public too, all gathering together with the sole aim of providing the best holiday experiences for their clients during their vacation time.

As well as the obvious aims of encouraging the mass markets to visit the locations on offer, the FITUR event also focuses on key areas for promotion, such as green travel, lesbian and gay visitors, investment travellers, technology and business to business, amongst others. With almost the entire globe represented, the exhibition becomes a mini world of adventure, with halls looking specifically at The Americas, Europe, Africa and Middle East, Asia and Pacific, Spanish Promotion Boards & Organizations, and much more.

Last year alone saw over 200,000 people participate in the event, almost half of whom were the general public, who saw presentations by 167 different countries over the 130 square metre of exhibition space.

As for Orihuela, the government team have already done a lot of groundwork to promote the area in general, not only as a city or municipality, but under the heading “Historia del Mediterráneo”, they are keen to also explore the surrounding areas too.

But it is the history of Orihuela which does set it aside from most other locations in the south of Alicante. Although some of the narrow streets may seem awkward to travel through, almost every glance reveals a building steeped in a story of times gone by. From the recent opening of the Civil War bunkers, the Cathedral, numerous convents and monasteries, the theatre and ancient hospitals, all mixed in with a few modern gems, such as the libraries and more, history and culture is the one unique element that Orihuela can promote.

With events throughout the year too, such as the guided cultural walks, which have become a victim of their own success due to constant oversubscription, to events which take over the whole city, like the Moors and Christians fiesta in July, and a mini event next week on the 26th.

Then, there is the Medieval Market, held on the 1st and 2nd of February this year, with buses provided from the coast, which is without doubt one of the biggest in Europe, and with the location within those historic streets, one of the few where visitors are truly absorbed into the feeling of travelling through time.

In Torrevieja, the same weekend sees the launch of this year´s carnival, with the presentation of the Carnival Queens on the 31st, this too is a unique experience.

That is why the importance of communication and promotion are important, and that is why the investment has been made available. If the towns and cities are worthy, then tourism will only grow if we all make the place a more attractive destination. If tourists bring money, then businesses grow, as does the infrastructure, which would enable the slightly lesser known places of the Costa Blanca start to compete with big-brother Benidorm, which itself stands as a testament to popularity.

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