Interview with Patrick Torrent Queralt
Vice-President of Necstour
Patrick Torrent Queralt
Vice-President of Necstour
Mr. Patrick Torrent holds a degree in Industrial Psychology for Organisations from the University of Barcelona and a degree in Law from the UNED, with training in Marketing Management from the ESADE Management Development Centre, and in Information Systems Management from Master Associates.
He began his professional career in the financial sector (La Caixa and Bankpime) and has been working in the tourism sector since 1990.
From 1990 to 2001 he was Head of Organisation at the RACC (Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia) where he led the creation of the travel area, wholesale and incoming travel agency activity. And from 2001 to December 2004, he was the Manager of ADD Viajes Corporativos (Grupo Farmacéutico Lácer), a company specialising in the organisation of incentive trips, conventions, congresses and events.
From 2005 to 2009 he was Deputy Director General of Consorci Turisme de Catalunya and Deputy Director of the Catalan Tourism Agency from 2010 when it was created until 2013.
He is currently Executive Director of the Catalan Tourism Agency, has actively participated in the creation of the new Catalan Tourism Agency and has promoted the definition of two Strategic Tourism Plans in Catalonia (2005-2010 and 2013-2016).
He has been associate professor at different universities and speaker and organiser of several symposiums, seminars, workshops and forums focused on tourism and its marketing and has also coordinated the two Tourism Marketing Plans of Catalonia (2013-2016 and 2017-2022).
Since 2015 Mr. Torrent has represented Catalonia at NECSTouR. From 2015 to 2021 he has held the Presidency and currently holds the Vice-Presidency of this network that brings together 41 Regional Tourism Authorities and 39 partner organisations.
Dear Mr. Torrent, what is Necstour and what can we expect from this supranational institution in Europe?
NECSTouR is the European Network of Regions for Sustainable and Competitive Tourism that brings together 41 regional tourism authorities, representing about 70% of the international tourism received in Europe. It is an association of the destinations most committed to sustainable tourism. From NECSTouR we can expect to value the specific weight of the regions in the development of tourism policies and influence the European institutions to promote a more sustainable and competitive tourism model.
In concrete terms, what can we expect from Necstour?
From NECSTouR we can expect the capacity to influence European tourism policies, the exchange of best practices between destinations, experience in driving projects that can take advantage of European funds and a shared vision of where we need to transform the tourism model.
And as vice-president of Necstour, what are your main lines of work?
We have structured them around the so-called 5S: Smart Destinations, for destinations that apply innovation in the transition towards environmental as well as social and cultural sustainability; Soci-cultural Balance, to boost the balance between the needs of residents and visitors; Statistics and Measurability, because you cannot manage what you cannot measure; Safety and Resilience, now more relevant than ever to create safe environments to ensure the resilience of our sector and, finally, but vital, Skills and Talent, because in a business based on people, only the proper development of the human factor will allow us to achieve our goals.
What role do the regions play in the definition of European tourism policies?
They play a crucial role. In most European countries, responsibility for tourism management and marketing strategies is in the hands of the regional administrations. It makes perfect sense that the European institutions, when developing tourism policies, take into account the vision of the regions in defining these policies and especially seek their involvement in their implementation.
In general terms, what is the situation of European tourism?
Europe is the world's number one tourist destination. The diversity of experiences it offers and its unrivalled wealth of heritage, whether natural, cultural or social, make it the undisputed leader in terms of travel aspirations. At this time of global challenges and climate emergency, Europe must once again spearhead the transformation of tourism in order to ensure that it does indeed generate life. Economic life, but also cultural life and social life, for the benefit of the whole community, visitors, residents, businesses and institutions. After the health crisis, Europe is regaining the pulse of activity, but at the same time it is aware that before this crisis there were unavoidable transformations on the agenda that must now be tackled more vigorously than ever. European tourism must recover through transformation.
Europe has a long history that has taken its social, cultural, economic and religious principles to the farthest corners of the world. Do you think it continues to play a role in the development of international tourism, or have we been replaced by others as impressive as the offerings of some countries on the Arabian Peninsula?
Europe has been the beacon of the world and continues to be so. Its strength in this respect has never been questioned. Now more than ever.
From a tourism point of view, is Europe becoming a theme park?
Europe must manage its tourist flows properly and must also move towards 4 D tourism: Seasonalised, Deconcentrated, Diversified and with a better Distribution of the wealth it generates. While Europe is clear about these challenges, we can by no means say that it is becoming a theme park. What makes Europe strong on the world tourism scene is mainly its authenticity and uniqueness.
Let's talk about citizens living in tourist regions such as Catalonia, the region you represent in Necstour, are they aware of the importance of tourism for their social development and, ultimately, their quality of life?
They are not always sufficiently aware. Perhaps the DMOs of the different destinations have focused so much on presenting the values of our destinations to visitors that we have forgotten to strengthen the sense of belonging to the territory in our fellow citizens, in the residents. The Barcelona Declaration "Better places to live, better places to visit" proposes five principles to make residents fully aware of how beneficial tourism is for their quality of life.
Avant-garde, modernism, tradition, etc. What does Europe offer the international tourist?
It offers everything: culture, gastronomy, action, contemplation, rest, energy... It is a compendium of values that has no real competition. Billions of people around the world are joining the middle classes with the ability to travel, and Europe is their priority. We will need to be careful that when this incremental influx of tourists invades our destinations, we manage it skilfully to avoid negative externalities and take full advantage of the benefits it can bring.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, do you see the European tourism industry recovering or is there still a long way to go?
According to World Tourism Organisation data, it is recovering much faster than the rest of the continents. We will close 2022 close to the 2019 figures, but I insist that the quantitative assessment should be secondary. The most important thing is the qualitative assessment of what tourism really brings to the host community. And in this aspect we are also improving in Europe.
You hold an important international position. Do you believe that a common strategy between European countries is possible?
It is essential. The challenges are enormous and only together can we face them with guarantees of success. A good example is the Climate Action Plans that we must develop as a result of the commitments of the Glasgow Declaration derived from the COP27 summit. We can only be effective with a common strategy at European level, but also at global level.
Let's talk about Necstour and its relationship with the European institutions, is there an active, direct and open relationship?
The relationship is stronger than ever. In this sense, the COVID-19 crisis has facilitated this direct link with the European Parliament, with the European Commission, with the Committee of the Regions and with the rest of the European associations linked to tourism. Daily relations and the capacity to influence to the point of setting the agenda of many of these institutions.
But this is not enough. Europe must better recognise the fundamental role of Regions and Destinations towards a sustainable development of Tourism and involve them in the European Green Pact, the Digital Transition and the other EU initiatives that address tourism with a bottom-up approach. In addition, regions need more adequate and tailor-made EU funding to support their transition towards sustainability.
What do you think of the statement that, for the vast majority of European citizens, the European institutions are not understood, nor how they are constituted or what they are for?
We must make an effort of pedagogy and generosity. Of pedagogy to explain why, in a globalised world such as the one we live in, we need a united and strong Europe to be able to compete. Generosity on the part of the member states to cede part of their sovereignty in order to effectively develop a unified European policy.
In several of your statements, you talk about tourism and its relationship with gastronomy. Why is it so important for the definition of tourism policies?
Gastronomy is culture. Gastronomy is uniqueness. Gastronomy is diversity. Gastronomy is territory. Gastronomy is sustainability. Gastronomy is landscape. Culture, uniqueness, diversity, territory, sustainability and landscape are vital elements in the configuration of tourism policies.
Let's talk about the digitalisation of the tourism industry, what plans are you developing at Necstour, do you think the European industry is ready for the technological leap?
It is one of NECSTouR's fundamental axes. From the Tourism of Tomorrow Lab, focused on Big Data as an element of transformation, to the S3 Platform project. Digitalisation and Safety for Tourism, there are several projects promoted by NECSTouR that are committed to digitalisation as a vital lever for the transformation of the tourism model.
You are a man with extensive international experience. What do you think are the main changes in international tourism after the pandemic and how do you think it will evolve in the coming years?
We are beginning to identify a certain change in the behaviour of the visitor, the resident and the destination itself. A certain return to authenticity, to kilometre zero, to a more conscious tourism. Over the next few years we will see the transformation of regenerative tourism, which, far from generating negative impacts, balances them out and is capable of leaving a positive legacy in the host territory. The sustainable and competitive tourism that we at NECSTouR advocate is part of the solution to the challenges we must face and this will start to become evident in the coming years.
Dear Mr. Torrent, thank you for the interview and for showing us an institution that represents thousands of European citizens and from whose coordination and work, companies and individuals can benefit.
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.