The challenges of tourism management.
Manuel Cabezuelos is Councilor for the Department of Tourism, a position he has held for the last 18 months, during which time his policy has been to diversify tourism in Benidorm and to revive forgotten markets.
During this period he has developed new ways to promote the city, which have been agreed with representatives in the tourist sector and special events have been planned which should revive some of the markets that have been neglected over the years. The Tourism Department run by Cabezuelos has worked closely with the Benidorm Tourism Foundation (Fundacion Turisme Benidorm) and with various tourist organizations’ in the area to maintain optimum levels of occupancy during these difficult times.
How healthy is tourism in Benidorm at the moment and what are your expectations for the upcoming summer season?
Progress has been positive and so are the prospects for the summer season. According to the latest statistics from the Easter period, British and Spanish tourist figures have been favorable. It is true that people are spending less money, but the occupancy numbers are positive so I think we'll have a good summer.
People are not so afraid of the “crisis” now, they need to take a break and go on holiday. Benidorm has absolutely everything, and at an affordable price which makes it an ideal and appealing destination.
So far the occupancy figures for 2011 have risen 7 points. How has the Town Hall’s efforts influenced these statistics?
We are organizing different events throughout the year to increase visitors to the area. These events range from sporting events, congresses’ or music festivals and are organized at key times to promote occupation.
You have stated that the aim of your government has been to recuperate lost markets. What markets are you referring to and how are you trying and get them back?
We have been trying to increase our attraction to the younger sector of the market which we have lost over the years. Musical events such as Low Cost and Electrobeach festivals have been added to the calendar of music festivals held in Spain. Benidorm´s image is changing and we are reminded of this when we attend the trade fairs. The people who speak badly of Benidorm are those who have never been. The different events we hold mean that people are discovering Benidorm again along with the many favorable aspects of the area. The tourism that is generated from special events is very important, basically we hold a congress every week with approx. 600 to 1000 people in each and when we finish building the Cultural Centre, Benidorm will be a very special destination indeed.
Attracting Tourism from different countries is also one of your Objectives.
Yes. We are interested in the Russian market and in some of the other Eastern European Countries.
We have also recently started direct flights from Alicante to Milan and with the new airport terminal in El Altet we have the opportunity to receive more flights and to offer a better service.
Out of all the activities that have been introduced during your time in office which are you most proud of?
Probably the gastronomical events. We held our first “Pincho and Tapas” Competition recently. It is important that people realize that we have very good restaurants and tapas bars in the area. Benidorm is now recognized for its local cuisine outside the region.
If you are re-elected for another term what new events do you plan to introduce and which are you intending to continue with?
We will continue with all the music concerts, bull fighting in the Bull Ring, gastronimcal events and we intend to hold the 2nd edition of the “Benisub” Competition, the International underwater Photographic Competition which we started with the Benidorm Tourism Foundation. We will have television crews filming here, there will be events in the Theme Parks and we are working with the foundation to start a programme of Health and Beauty Breaks. We would like to introduce an Oktoberfest to the area in the month of October which is a German Beer Festival as well as a British Beer Festival. We also plan to maintain the “multiadventures” activities that we held last year but on a larger scale and of course repeat the Low Cost and Electrobeach festival but this year we intend to change the location to a larger venue after last years success and we will add other smaller musical events such as Turborock.
These ideas form part of how you plan to offer more to the public but are there any ideas or projects that have not yet been exploited?
We would like to use some of our public areas more for example the Square by the Town Hall (Plaza de SSMM Los Reyes de España) was never used and now many events are held there. We would like to use the Castle area more often too; it is ideal for holding presentations and certain events. We would like the public to present their ideas to the Town Hall and to be able to develop them as they did with the wine tasting held during the Tapas and Pinchos competition.
We are also working on projects dedicated to the nightlife in Benidorm and to promote gay tourism.
Benidorm’ infrastructure is important if you are to expand in future markets, what do you think needs improving?
Everything. It is extremely important that when clients step outside their four or five star hotels that they find a city of the same category, with high standards. The Avenida Mediterraneo and the Avenida Europa for example need improving as do other streets. We all have to work together, the Public sector and the private sector.
With regard to promoting Benidorm and publicity, you have made cuts to the traditional trade fairs to invest in other ways of promoting the area that are more effective. What are they?
The trade fairs are not what they used to be. There are now much easier ways to communicate with the public and it is easy to send and display videos and information using the new technologies’. We have attended the Tourist Trade Fairs but reduced our costs by 80%. Benidorm has three web pages and we are on the Social Networking sites. We have also recently become part of the World Tourism Organisation which enables the rest of the world to learn about us.
On a personal note, how would you evaluate your 18 months at the helm of the Benidorm Tourism Department?
It has been an honour to be able to head this department as I have worked in tourism all my life and for that reason I have found it very rewarding and I feel proud to have been able to do so. I hope I have done a good job and if I have made any mistakes during my office that I can be forgiven for them.
Interviewed by Begonña Arija