Spain wants Sri Lanka to visit her more

Thursday, 1 October 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Himal Kotelawala

Spain is looking to increase the number of Sri Lankan tourists travelling to the country annually, Director Tourism Spain Ignacio Ducasse Gutierrez said last week.

Currently there about 5,000 Sri Lankans visiting Spain every year and there is potential for that figure to go up, Gutierrez told the Daily FT at a special networking event Gutierrez had last Friday with outbound tour operators and other industry representatives.

“We think Sri Lanka is a promising market. We can do better than what we’re doing right now; so, we wish to increase our presence here by having a closer relationship with the trade,” he said.

Spain, the third most visited destination in the world after France and the US, is expecting 68 million tourists from all over the world this year, and according to Gutierrez, a significant percentage of that traffic is to come from South East Asia. 

“Sri Lanka is a market we believe in and we want to help tour operators promote Spain here,” he told the gathering.

Tourism Spain has offices in Mumbai, China, Singapore and Tokyo and is looking to further expand in the South East Asian region. In terms of revenue, inbound tourism in Spain is only second to that of the United States.

“We’re interested in diversifying our markets. So we’re interested in South East Asia because we believe tourists here are of a higher quality and can travel to different regions in Spain,” he said.

When asked what he meant by higher quality, Gutierrez said he expects tourists of this region to possess more spending power and, among other things, a higher level of education.

Responding to a question by the Daily FT about the Sri Lankan passport potentially being problematic when obtaining visa to certain European countries, Gutierrez said that, as Spain is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement which allows a Schengen Visa holder to move freely within all countries party to the agreement, it should not be an issue.

“Basically, the instructions and strategies for issuing visa are decided on a supra national level, so we really have to follow the Schengen procedure. The embassy to Spain is trying to do this in the most efficient way possible. But of course, the requirements come with the Schengen Agreement, and there’s nothing we can do to change that,” he said.

In the event of a problem, he added, the best course of action would be to notify the visa officers.