As part of a long-lasting cooperation between HUMEN Magazine and the different tourism offices in Spain, we sat down with Rocío, recently appointed as Counselor for Tourism Affairs in Vienna, where she is responsible for working together with the different Spanish embassies in the region in order to promote Spain as a touristic destination.
Please tell us a little about the role of the tourism office at the Spanish embassy in Budapest.
I am based in Vienna. The counselor position is renewed every 5 years and I have just started my term in 2020. Among the 7 Spanish embassies I am in touch with, Budapest is one of the key offices, as the number of tourists directly coming from Hungary keeps increasing every year. Just in in 2019, 12 Spanish cities were connected to Budapest through direct flights, which speaks a lot not only about the amount of traffic between the two countries, but also about how the destinations for Hungarians keep getting more and more diverse.
Our goal is to promote Spain as a desirable touristic destination, for beach holidays of course, which is still the most popular purpose, but recently opening more cultural, shopping and nature opportunities for Hungarians to explore our country. Besides Barcelona and Madrid, the cities with constantly growing traffic of Hungarian tourists are Sevilla, Valencia, Alicante and, of course, the Canary Islands.
Are there any types of activities that people in Budapest can participate in? Any tourism presentations about Spain, fairs, etc.?
This year the amount of activities has been reduced because of the virus, but we are aiming to start again in 2021 depending on how the pandemic evolves. Most of the activities organized are usually for business partners such as travel agencies and tourism companies, but thanks to the pandemic, we have started online actions with the goal of reaching the target market, the travelers themselves.
Most of our operation goes into presentations, press, advertising, information points, and expositions that highlight Spanish culture. We also participate in the yearly travel expo happening in Budapest, the “Utazás” exhibition, which for now has been confirmed to happen between the 6th and the 9th of May in 2021, if the health safety measures allow it.
We would also love to take part in Budapest Pride 2021 and participate an active role in it, depending on how our planning goes.
How has the coronavirus affected LGBT tourism in Spain?
The biggest problem was the uncertainty; not knowing when all the restrictions were going stop or where the virus was going. Spain has signature LGBT+ events throughout the year, all of which had to be postponed several times and cancelled. This was the case with Circuit Festival, Winter Pride and many other Spanish LGBT festivals and festivities in places like Ibiza or Canary Islands, which are destinations very much loved by the community.
But people have not lost the desire to travel, totally the opposite, it is what they wish the most at the moment. Spain remains one of the top destinations they are planning to visit as soon as the restrictions are over. So we are confident that we can recover fast and we are already working to welcome everyone back, once travelling is safe again.
As you say, Spain is one of the favorite destinations of many. How is Spain preparing to responsibly welcome back all the visitors who will go after longing to return so much?
Slowly. As I explained, the biggest difficulty is not knowing when everything will go back to normal when it comes to restrictions and the spreading of the virus. At the moment, we are asking for PCR tests upon arrival to the country to try to control importing cases. Spain has always promoted itself as a safe destination, in every matter, so now our priority is to do everything in our hands for the sake of our visitors’ safety.
What can we expect from Spain as an LGBT tourism destination in 2021? Why should Spain be the first destination that the Hungarian LGBT community travels to once we return to normality?
One of the priorities for Spanish when it comes to tourism in the last years has been to focus on sustainability, and by sustainability we mean achieving that the incoming traffic does not depend on seasonality but that the flow of travelers remains constant throughout the year. We achieve that by focusing on other areas that Spain has to offer year-round such as culture, shopping, nature, art, etc.
One of the conclusions of our studies is that the LGBT+ market is actually one of our best allies to achieve this sustainability, as Spain attracts the community all year long, not only during the summer period. As a result, we are pretty aware that our priority is to make Spain a destination where LGBT people are aware that they are very much welcomed and feel safe.
Until now, Spain has been one of the most powerful players in international LGBT tourism, and the pandemic won’t change that. The attractions for the LGBT target group are still here and our priority is to make sure we can get back on track on all of those attributes that make Spain one of the top LGBT destinations. It is in our culture to embrace and welcome the LGBT community, we easily make them feel at home, and we make them part of our culture and our festivities… this has taken decades to achieve, and a pandemic won’t change any of that. We know you are here as an LGBT tourist, we acknowledge you and we welcome you as such.