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TOURISM

How Spain plans to bring back tourists in 2021

In 2020 Spain suffered a 71.7 percent drop in tourists compared to during 2019, but the country has ambitious plans to bring back visitors in 2021.

How Spain plans to bring back tourists in 2021
Image: estai / Pixabay

The Spanish authorities acted with strict measures to contain the Covid-19 virus, but this meant that tourism suffered, especially during the first lockdown when the borders were closed. 

Over the last six months, the tourism sector has made a huge effort to adapt quickly and implement measures to ensure visitor safety and make sure that Spain is in a position to welcome tourists, whilst reducing the spread of COVID-19 at the same time. 

Director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK, Javier Piñanes said “work is continually being carried out between the Spanish and British authorities, and with the support of the tourism sector so that decisions are made or adjusted based exclusively on epidemiological criteria. A success of which was seen when the Canary Islands were added to the UK travel corridors list having been deemed ready to receive visitors thanks to the low COVID-19 infection rate and an extensive review of the islands’ safety procedures and tourism infrastructure”. 

“It is unfortunate that the UK entered into a second national lockdown before the Canaries could really capitalise on the surge in demand, however the more regionalised approach taken to establish this travel corridor bodes well for Spanish destinations with lower case rates,” he continued. 

Piñanes concluded that the outlook for 2021 is optimistic and that Spain is now more equipped to control the virus and is ready to receive tourists. “The Spanish government, together with the regional authorities, local councils, tourism municipalities and other bodies will continue to work intensely to control the virus and reinforce the image of Spain as a safe destination,” he said. 

In order to entice tourists back, Spain in 2021, the country has set out a whole host of programs celebrating anniversaries. There will also be several new openings and attractions for tourists to discover, and new offerings in the sustainable tourism sector. 

Anniversaries 

Image: Andre_Grunden/Pixabay

Spain will celebrate Xacobeo 2021, the first Compostela Holy Year in 11 years. During these years, it is thought that believers can be granted a plenary indulgence, leaving them completely absolved of all their sins. Jacobean Years only occur 14 times a century and highlight of everything the Camino de Santiago represents. During this time, Galicia is set to host numerous activities related to the Camino de Santiago including concerts, seminars and exhibitions. This means that 2021 could be the ideal time to walk the Camino.

Burgos Cathedral will celebrate its 800th anniversary. In July 2021, the UNESCO World Heritage Burgos Cathedral will turn 800. To mark the occasion, throughout 2021, the city will organise cultural activities such as exhibitions, concerts and conferences.

The city of Toledo will also be celebrating its own 800th anniversary to mark 800 years since the birth of Alfonso X the Wise. Toledo Council has announced that they will create a full programme of activities to celebrate the event. 

Madrid’s Reina Sofía Museum will also be celebrating an anniversary – its 30th birthday. The museum will mark the event with new exhibition titled ‘Mondrian and De Stijl’, focusing on Dutch painter The exhibition opens on November 11 and will run until March 1, 2021.

New openings 

Catalonia is set to introduce a new tourist route in late 2020, aiming to welcome international tourists in 2021. The ‘Grand Tour of Catalonia’ will be a circular tourist route that will allow visitors to experience the best of Catalonia's art, history, gastronomy, landscapes, people and traditions, and will also teach tourists the lives of Gaudí and Dalí. 

Madrid will welcome luxury tourists back next year with the opening of a new luxury shopping centre, the Galería Canalejas. The first stores and boutiques opened in October 2020, but new ones will be opening throughout the first half of 2021.

Tenerife will be hoping to get a wave of new adventure tourists back in 2021, having launched its new Route 0.4.0. The trail opened last month and is the highest elevation gain in Spain. The 56km trail has been created for hikers and trail runners, and starts on El Socorro Beach, travelling through rural areas to reach the top of Spain’s highest peak, Mount Teide.

Meanwhile, the Balearic Island of Menorca will open a new prehistoric cave for visitors for the 2021 season. Cova de S'Aigu is an ancient burial cave that dates back to prehistoric times. It features 18th-century inscriptions, a variety of geological formations and a large crystal clear lake.

Gastronomy 

Image: Ulleo/Pixabay

Spain’s gastronomy has always enticed visitors to its shores and 2021 will be no different. The region of Murcia will hold on to its title as 2021 Spanish Capital of Gastronomy and will host a program of 1,001 activities, including a travelling vegetable museum, gastronomic routes through the region, and food festivals.

Sustainability

Sustainable tourism will be more important than ever in 2021 as the world wakes up to the reality of the climate crisis. Spain is already well on its way to helping the environment with the creation of several sustainable destinations. 

The Balearic Islands are set to ban single-use consumer plastics from March 2021 in an effort to help protect the environment more. The city of Palma de Mallorca will also become a smart tourism destination with an ambitious new project in place for next year – ‘Plan Impulso Palma’. The smart tourism model will be based around technological solutions, boosting the city’s digitalisation, creating new sustainability and quality control, and implementing safety and hygiene programs and protocols. A total of €975,000 will be invested into the project.

Valencia will also become a great destination for the eco-conscious traveller in 2021, by becoming the first city in the world to verify its carbon emissions from tourist activity. The city is taking big steps to tackle the global climate emergency and is committed to becoming a carbon-neutral destination by 2025.

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TOURISM

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
 
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.

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