Qatari tourists among biggest spenders in Spain: envoy
March 27 2019 10:00 PM
Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.

Qatari tourists are among the biggest spenders when on holiday in Spain, according to a top Spanish diplomat, who said Spain has recorded a 150% increase in tourist arrivals from Qatar in the last four years.

“The average credit card spend for a Qatari tourist in Spain is the highest in the world at $1,512 as against the standard spend of $1,413 per GCC visitor,” Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro revealed during a meeting with Qatar-based travel agencies on Wednesday.

She said travellers from the GCC have doubled their arrivals into Spain from 119,000 in 2014 to 240,000 tourists in 2018. Spain had more than 34,000 tourists from Qatar in 2017, Alfaro said.

Alfaro explained that a major contributing factor for the growth in arrivals is the increased connectivity with Spain.

“In the past two years, Qatar Airways has increased its frequency and capacity to Madrid and Barcelona with 21 flights a week to Madrid and 18 flights a week to Barcelona, and has also added a seasonal route to Malaga that runs from June to September since 2018. In 2019, the airline will also be increasing its seat capacity on this route.

“The aim of the embassy of Spain and its Tourism Office is to educate and highlight other beautiful locations in and around these cities that are highly accessible by high speed train or are a short ride away, thereby increasing the average length of stay in these cities,” she said.

Alfaro said the Tourism Board of Spain “is working very closely” with travel agencies in Qatar on how to promote different destinations in Spain. It is also one of the few tourism boards that have invested in creating -- a website with information specifically-tailored for the GCC traveller.

“Available in both English and Arabic, the website highlights places to be explored around the main destinations of Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga, recommendations for families, shopping, halal restaurants, mosques, and also offers a link directly to the BLS website, the company responsible for processing Schengen visas to Spain,” she said.

Alfaro said that so far the general trend from Qatar is to visit Spain in the summer months of July and August.

“Medical tourism is another important area. Medical tourism in Spain grows up to 20% each year, many coming from Arab countries. The reasons why more and more medical tourists opt for Spain are its remarkable quality at the health level (among the top 10 in the world), the absence of waiting lists, good weather, postoperative comfort, excellent value for money, our consumption habits, and the gastronomic and cultural offer they find in Spain.

“In 2017, around 140,000 health tourists were served in Spain. The plans are to serve 200,000 health tourists by 2020. The future looks positive for tourism growth from Qatar to Spain, based on a recent study by Forward Keys on future bookings received with an increased projection in arrivals,” Alfaro said.

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