Interview with Luis Martín Izquierdo

Today we have the participation of Luis Martín Izquierdo, Director General of Tourism of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport of the Community of Madrid (Spain).

Dear Luis, what does Madrid and the region offer as a tourist destination that sets it apart from other tourist destinations in Spain?

The Community of Madrid has made giant strides in a very short time in its positioning as a destination in the tourist market, not only nationally, but also internationally. In addition to a heritage and cultural offer that is recognised in Spain and abroad, the region offers such a wide and varied cultural, sporting and leisure agenda that no other national destination can compete with. The lifestyle of the people of Madrid, its welcoming character and its authenticity have made Madrid the place where everyone wants to come to spend a few days of leisure or to celebrate any type of event or meeting.

After a pandemic, how has the tourist offer in the Community of Madrid evolved?

There has been a real tourism renaissance in the region, with a significant increase in the hotel offer (with the presence of major international brands); the cultural and leisure offer, where we now have more options than before the pandemic; the gastronomic and restaurant offer; and the shopping tourism offer. This great change that Madrid is undergoing is not the result of a one-off action over time. The region had already attracted the attention of tourism investors a few years ago, and the pandemic has not managed to halt the development of new projects in Madrid and the attraction of new ones. The regional policy that was a pioneer in the world in terms of culture, hotels and tourism. In addition, Madrid's own tourism sector has made a great effort to continue improving the quality of its offer. All of this has meant that in a short time we have one of the most competitive tourist offers in the world.

Let's talk about coordination with other institutions such as Madrid City Council. How is a relationship articulated between two institutions whose objective is to promote Madrid, a leading international tourist destination?

The teams of both institutions work hand in hand on a permanent basis and we collaborate intensively in different lines of work such as attracting major events, participating in international fairs, organising familiarisation trips for the press and tour operators, etc. In addition, we are currently immersed in the development of a major project in collaboration with the private sector that will allow us to carry out major promotional activities in international markets. Our objectives and lines of work coincide completely, from working on the concept of "Greater Madrid" to extend the length of stay to attracting high-value international tourists, i.e. those who spend a lot in the destination and who help to reduce the seasonal nature of demand.

Do you think the Madrid tourism industry is making efforts to provide creative and innovative solutions to the city's offer?

One of the pillars of the transformation that the Community of Madrid has undergone as a tourist destination is the great effort that tourism companies have made over the last two years - despite the complex situation associated with the pandemic - and which they continue to make. This effort has to do with the investments they have made to improve their offer and become more competitive and the excellent relationship and collaboration that exists between them and with the public administrations. The tourism sector in Madrid is taking very important steps to advance in terms of sustainability, in the digitalisation of its services or in the qualification of its professionals, among others.

What do you consider to be the keys to the Community's tourism offer, and how does it differ from other regions in Spain and Europe?

What really differentiates us from other European destinations is a high concentration of top-quality offerings, which are also very competitive in terms of price. In the region itself and in its sphere of influence we have eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and another 11 cultural destinations - the Villas de Madrid, which makes us a first-class cultural destination on an international scale, together with our museum offer and the large number of cultural experiences we have. But what really sets us apart is that the region is a lively, dynamic destination ... our cultural and leisure agenda, the multiple gastronomic proposals or the shopping tourism offer supports the tourist story that in Madrid we have the best lifestyle in the world, undoubtedly a very important asset in the tourist market.

What does Madrid offer international tourists that is different from other destinations such as Barcelona, Lisbon, etc.?

In addition to being a great cultural destination that integrates around twenty cultural destinations less than an hour from the centre of the capital or having some of the most important museums at international level, the cultural and leisure agenda is endless, it is now even bigger than before the pandemic, we are the world capital of musicals in Spanish and the offer of theatre, opera, classical music or performing arts is now one of the most important on the international scene. The high quality gastronomic offer has multiplied in a short period of time, welcoming cuisines from all over the world, traditional and avant-garde gastronomy. It is also a very competitive shopping destination, with a varied offer in different neighbourhoods that combines perfectly with the local culture and gastronomy, a different experience.

Madrid has a unique lifestyle, and has managed to maintain its traditions, identity and authenticity, key factors in attracting quality tourists.

What are the basic pillars of the Community of Madrid's tourism policy?

The pandemic forced a change in the priorities of any destination for some time, with the reactivation of tourist demand being a priority shared by all. However, in parallel, we have been developing projects to achieve the major medium and long-term objectives of the Community of Madrid destination, such as the change of positioning in international markets - positioning ourselves as a major cultural, leisure and long-stay holiday destination -; the attraction of international visitors from distant markets that significantly increase spending in the destination; the consolidation of a sustainable and participatory management model; or the development of tourism in the districts of Madrid with the aim of distributing tourist flows throughout the region and generating opportunities for economic growth and employment in all our tourist municipalities.

As you know, many of the members registered in the Tourism and Society Think Tank (TSTT) are professionals and academics from the Spanish tourism industry, and some of them have asked us to ask you the following question: do you think that Madrid could host one of the TSTT Meetings where Spanish tourism actors can meet with other international actors, mainly from Latin America, to study joint and coordinated strategies for international promotion?

The Community of Madrid is one of the main European business centres, and the congress and meeting offer is very competitive. Madrid has been distinguished for several years as the best meetings destination in the world, and it constantly demonstrates to the world its capacity to organise major international events. In addition, the excellent cultural offer in different municipalities, the leisure, gastronomic and shopping offer make the region a perfect destination for incentive tourism. Madrid is also home to leading international tourism professionals and companies and is the headquarters of the World Tourism Organisation. In other words, we are a reference point for world tourism and a great centre for generating knowledge in the sector.

How do you understand the phrase: "digitalisation of Madrid's tourism industry"?

In the development of our strategy and tourism policy, digitalisation is one of the cross-cutting principles, together with sustainability and coordination and collaboration with the different agents in the sector's value chain. We do not approach digitalisation as an isolated line of work, but as a factor that is present in the development of our activity. We see digitalisation as one of the most important vehicles for improving the competitiveness of the tourism sector in Madrid.

In this sense, what actions are you carrying out?

The commitment to digitalisation is visible in all the lines of work of the Directorate General for Tourism. We are working hand in hand with Segittur to promote and implement new Smart Tourism Destinations (DTI) in the region. The tourism promotion of the destination has been transformed over the last few years thanks to the use of digital tools, which is allowing us greater immediacy and capacity to adapt to each market. We also support tourism associations in the Community of Madrid in the adoption of digital tools and channels that boost the marketing of their offer, we carry out digital training activities for destination managers, etc.

In your opinion, what are the weak points of Madrid's tourism offer and what are you doing to solve them in the near future?

In general terms, we can say that the tourism offer in Madrid is currently complete and competitive. We have worked intensively in this area over the last few years, and we have products and experiences in line with market needs and trends (cultural, gastronomy, wine tourism, active tourism, nature, etc.). Our objective in terms of tourism is to continue to focus on those products that allow us to structure the region's tourist territory, lengthen the stay and deseasonalise demand, such as World Heritage in Madrid, Villas de Madrid, Madrid Wine Routes, MadRural, Cliclamadrid, Historic Trains, etc.).

Specifically, what actions do you carry out in cities around the great offer of the city of Madrid?

Our vision and work is aimed at positioning the region in tourist markets as a great destination that goes beyond the capital, which benefits us all as it allows us to extend the stay or generate more spending in the region. Through the "Greater Madrid" brand, we carry out different promotional actions in this sense in international markets. Other important actions are the creation of products and experiences that connect the capital with other destinations in Madrid, the creation of tourism proposals for our rural areas, the holding of cultural, sporting or gastronomic events in different municipalities, the implementation of major campaigns to promote products such as MadRural and Villas de Madrid, etc.

What projects related to the Community's tourism offer do you foresee for the coming months?

In addition to creating and promoting tourism experiences on an ongoing basis to continue to attract the attention of tourist markets, our priority at the moment is to support Madrid's municipalities in improving their tourism offer through different projects or investment plans, including those associated with the European Next Generation funds. Plans are currently being developed that will have a great impact on the tourism offer of many of our destinations, such as the creation of new products and experiences, the enhancement of cultural resources for tourist use, the improvement of urban tourist areas, the creation of non-motorised tourist itineraries, the improvement of sustainability and the digitalisation of destinations, the training of our tourism professionals, etc.

Finally, in a hundred words, why come to the Region of Madrid?

Because the Region of Madrid is the largest cultural destination in the world and also has the best lifestyle on the planet. Our heritage, cultural and leisure agenda, gastronomy and shopping tourism offer is unbeatable on the international scene. Madrid is a great holiday and leisure destination with an inexhaustible offer of things to do and see. It is also a unique MICE destination. It has managed to maintain its identity and authenticity. Madrid is fashionable, it is the place where everyone wants to be, it is a safe, open, fun and welcoming destination.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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