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Published on : Thursday, December 5, 2013
Catalonia, with Barcelona as its capital, is a leading tourist destination in Europe. In 2012, it welcomed more than 24 million tourists, half of whom were visitors from abroad. Situated in the south-west of Europe, its coastline lapped by the waters of the Mediterranean, the country enjoys a mild and temperate climate, making it an ideal place for tourism activities all year round.
Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in the world. Last year it received more
than 7 million tourists. Other important cities in Catalonia include Girona, Tarragona and Lleida, all of which have a history going back a thousand years and more, as well as considerable cultural and environmental heritage.
Catalonia is a fashionable destination, as demonstrated by the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Don’t Live Twice), a Bollywood super-hit partly shot in Catalonia, specifically in its capital, Barcelona, in a coastal area in the North of the country, the Costa Brava, and in inland Catalonia, Catalunya Central.
A full and varied array of attractions
The art sites and monuments in Catalonia constitute a body of heritage that is
unique in Europe, making it a popular destination for cultural tourism. This historical and cultural heritage is such that a total of 70 properties in the country have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Catalonia is known around the world as the cradle of Modernisme (Catalonia’s Art Nouveau) and as the birthplace of great geniuses such as Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner. Buildings like Sagrada Família, La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and the Palau de la Música are outstanding examples of this architectural style.
The mountain of Montserrat, and the monastery perched upon it, is another of the most popular places in Catalonia with visitors due to both its cultural and its religious importance. One of the local cultural traditions worthy of special mention is the Castellers, human edifices in the form of a tower declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2010 that have many features in common with the Indian tradition of Govinda pyramids.
Catalonia can also offer outstanding opportunities for shopping tourism. Passeig de Gràcia is one of the most renowned shopping streets around the world. Here visitors will find all the leading international clothing, accessory and jewellery brands. There are other important shopping attractions as well, such as La Roca Village, a major shopping centre 40 minutes from Barcelona, which has more than a hundred boutiques run by Spanish and international brands that offer discounts of up to 60%. Credit cards are very widely accepted in Catalonia and tourists from outside the European Union, including visitors from India, can ask for a refund of the IVA (sales tax) on their purchases in many places around the country.
Catalonia is home to the finest restaurant in the world, El Celler de Can Roca, based in Girona and run by the Roca brothers, who were awarded the accolade by the prestigious Restaurant magazine. El Celler de Can Roca takes up the legacy left by El Bulli, the restaurant owned by Ferran Adrià, who was regarded as the world’s top chef for many years. Catalan haute cuisine is, in fact, one of the best positioned at an international level, with 53 restaurants that hold 63 Michelin stars between them.
In addition, Catalonia’s cuisine is extremely diverse. As a Mediterranean country with both a coastline and mountains, its traditional cuisine includes meat and fish dishes to delight everyone. Vegetarian cuisine is also establishing an increasing presence.
Catalonia is a major destination for sports tourism. Football reigns supreme as the top sport in the country, especially in Barcelona, which is home to FC Barcelona (popularly known as ‘Barça’), one of the most internationally famous football teams, whose squad includes the striker Leo Messi, the best player in the world.
In addition, Catalonia has a number of other major sporting amenities, among
them the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack, which hosts a Formula 1
Grand Prix race and Moto GP bike race every year.
Leading business tourism destination
Catalonia is one of the most important business tourism destinations in Europe.
Every year numerous fairs, trade shows and congresses are held in Barcelona, among them major events such as the Mobile World Congress and the EIBTM . In 2012, the CREDAI (Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India) selected Barcelona to host its first convention outside Asia and the Middle East. In total, more than 300 representatives from this Indian confederation visited Barcelona, many accompanied by their families.
Catalonia is also a popular destination for incentive trips due to its diverse landscape, which features major cities, shoreline and mountains, providing opportunities for all kinds of activities. In May 2013, Barcelona welcomed business travellers from the Prudential, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, with offices in Indonesia, which brought over 1,500 of its staff to Catalonia so they could discover the city.
Good transport communications and modern accommodation
Barcelona has daily direct flights from Doha and Dubai, operated by Qatar Airways and Emirates respectively, two cities with good connections with India. In addition, the Catalan government is working hard to achieve other direct-flight destinations and to facilitate the issuing of visas to Indian tourists wishing to visit Catalonia.
Catalonia has an extensive rail network. Its four major cities (Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona) are interconnected by the high-speed train (AVE) service.
In addition, the regional rail network (Rodalies) makes it possible for tourists to visit smaller towns.
Barcelona is the most important cruise port in Europe and ranks fourth around the
entire world. According to Barcelona Port figures, over a million cruise passengers
visited the city in the first half of 2013, a number that is expected to rise to 2.6
million by the end of the year.
There are many car-hire establishments in Catalonia. These offer a wide range of
vehicles from small runabouts to luxury cars and limousines, enabling tourists to
travel around the country and discover its attractions for themselves.
Catalonia can boast of modern hotels in every category, from internationally-recognised four and five-star establishments such as the Hotel Arts, the W Barcelona and the Mandarin Oriental to very comfortable accommodation with lower ratings. The luxury hotels generally have spa and treatment services available for guests.
To become a Catalonia expert in India, travel agent can register and complete an on-going on-line course:
A market of great interest to Catalonia
Catalonia is a destination with an open mindset that welcomes tourists and is keen to present itself to the entire world. India’s potential as an emerging tourist market is extremely attractive.
It is estimated that around 30,000 tourists from India visited Catalonia in 2012, a figure that is expected to rise to some 33,000 in 2013. These are tourists with considerable purchasing power who tend to spend an average of 800-1,000 euros per person during their stay.
Tourists from India generally visit Catalonia as part of a tour of a number of European countries and spend an average of three to four days here, most of them in Barcelona. Tourists also come to Catalonia for business reasons and, once their work is completed, they stay on to discover the country. Most of these travellers are men aged between 25 and 55 who come from the middle and upper classes, have studied at university and travel with a group or with friends, their spouse or family.
Indian tourists generally travel outside the high season in Catalonia and hence are
deseasonalised tourists. The factors that most influence the choice of a destination are climate, cost, proximity, the length of the visit, food and the ease of obtaining a visa. Nevertheless, travel agents continue to play a key role when tourists choose their destination.
Based on the figures for 2012, it is estimated that the flow of tourists from India will rise by 13.3% in the coming years, reaching 25 million international trips in 2016. Given that the number of trips was 13.5 million in 2011, this means that the number of international journeys from India will have increased by 11.5 million in five years, one of the highest rises in outbound tourism.