Spain senses no competition in attracting cinema tourism from India, asserts Counsellor

Alluring tax rebates, picturesque locations and technical assistance are some USPs that are likely to keep Spain ahead in attracting Indian Cinema Tourism, asserts Ignacio Ducasse Gutierrez, Tourism Counsellor, Embassy of Spain in India and Director, Tourism Office of Spain in India, Mumbai. In an exclusive conversation with TF, he discussed Spain’s varied tourism products, its key markets, and reasons behind its ascent as a favoured Indian outbound.

Ignacio SPAIN TOURISM Counsellor11How has been 2015 for Spain tourism? What kind of numbers have you crunched? What have been your key markets, globally?

In the last 5 years, travel to Spain from India has grown from 33.591 tourist arrivals in 2011 to 84.903 tourist arrivals in 2015. We witnessed a strong growth of 100% in the months of Jan-April 2015, vis-à-vis the same period last year with arrivals increasing from 10.000 in Jan-April 2014 to 20.000 in Jan-April 2015. The subsequent months of summer i.e. May and June slowed down a bit in terms of the number of arrivals in comparison to the previous year. However, there was a quick recovery post the slowdown, with a surge in arrivals from India in the months of July-September. 

Our key source markets are UK, France & Germany with 55% of our arrivals coming from these 3 countries, approximately 37.5 million tourists from the total of 68.1 million tourists received in 2015. We are also are paying special attention to the BRIC countries and have witnessed a surge in arrivals from Russia and China in particular. Furthermore, we are also strongly focusing on the Latin American countries which have historical links with Spain and the Middle East countries that have shown great interest in travel to Spain over the past few years. India is positioned as one of our top priority emerging markets globally.

Given that Cinema tourism has been a stupendous success for Spain, focus on re-invigorating shooting in locations is a great idea. But how are you going to compete with a number of Asian countries that are doling out attractive schemes and incentives to attract shooting? How intense is the competition from other countries in attracting Indian Cinema outbound?

Spain provides filming production incentives, amazing and varied locations, most modern film studios in Europe, cutting-edge gastronomy offers, audiovisual professional and service production companies, perfect climate, quality lifestyle, safety and comfort, rich catering and accommodation offer, extensive infrastructure and transportation network, friendly and welcoming offer. 

Indian film makers can shoot anywhere in Spain. We have a great diversity of wonderful settings from Maspalomas beach and lighthouse, to the romantic Parque de MaríaLuisa in Seville, or the Segovia Roman Aqueduct.

Spain has something for everyone. Spain has an amazing diversity of landscapes. More than 300 long days of sunlight per year with pleasant summer and winter temperatures, 2,500 castles, 4,971 miles of coastline with stretching beaches, calm coves with crystal clear waters, cliffs and islands; more than 100 natural reserves with snowy mountains, tropical landscapes and deserts. And great architectural variety: Roman bridges and aqueducts, rural villages, medieval towns, modern cities, futuristic buildings, etc.

These locations offer a unique, grandeur and romantic setting which is usually observed to be captured in many Hindi films.

Spain offers many advantages to Indian filmmakers. The benefits offered vary from region to region. 

At a national level, all international productions services could generate a maximum tax rebate of Rs. 2,500,000, calculated as the 15% of the eligible costs spent in Spain, having to invest a minimum of Rs. 1,000,000 in eligible costs.

The amount of this deduction together with other aid received by the taxpayer may not exceed 50% of the cost of the production. 

In the case of the Canary Islands, the maximum amount to be deducted goes up to Rs. 4,500,000, being all production expenses in this region subject to 35% tax rebate from production expenses in this region. 

Regarding Navarre, this region offers 35% tax rebate from all eligible costs with no maximal deduction and minimal expense. The only requisite is to film at least for one week in the region.

Taking into account these excellent offerings in Spain, we hardly feel that we are competing with Asian countries and their schemes and incentives. And hence, we sense very little competition from
other countries promoting their destinations in India.

What would you call some key USPs of Spain. What has it got for the Indian traveller?

Apart from the vibrant, lively and urban cities of Spain like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao, the Key USPs of Spain lie in its unique offerings like World Heritage Cities of Spain (15 of them declared by UNESCO), wedding and honeymoon destinations like Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Ibiza and many more, MICE offerings in avant-garde architecture, like the Donostia-San Sebastián Conference Centre, the one in Valencia designed by Norman Foster, the one in A Coruña, and Ciudad de Oviedo by Santiago Calatrava) to hold business meetings, presentations and seminars. 

The Indian traveller can benefit from competitive hotel pricing in Spain where even most of the four star hotel properties provide almost five-star like facilities and amenities.

Take us through some trends. What is the average stay of Indian outbound? How has been the Y-O-Y growth? Is there any realistic target or number you wish to achieve? 

The average length of stay by Indians in 2015 was between 8-10 days. The Y-O-Y growth has overall been steady and consistent. In 2011-2012, post the release of the movie Zindagi Na MilegiDobara, we achieved an increase of 80% in tourist arrivals, from 33.591 to 60.444 Indian tourists. Subsequently, we registered a growth of 21,6%, 8,36% and 6,61% in the periods of 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively.  

We are positive that our promotional efforts this year, including various events such as the World Tapas Day on the 16th of June and the IIFA Awards held during the weekend of 23-26 June in Madrid will result in a positive increase in the number of arrivals from India.   

We are aiming to achieve a growth of about 10-15% this year thereby, touching approximately 100.000 Indian tourist arrivals.

Are you exploring greater outreach via other mediums? How about more vibrant online outreach? 

Yes, this year we have done several online marketing campaigns to explore greater outreach in the Indian market. As online is constantly gaining importance and momentum in this market, we have been present in online media through our various online campaigns relating “fly and drive” with Lonely Planet, honeymooners and wedding planners with WeddingSutra, Luxury and Shopping with Matrix Cellular, Golf in Spain with and IIFA 2016 in Madrid, Spain this year.

What are some key constraints in attracting footfalls from India?
How do you intend on addressing them?

There is great interest in travelling to Spain but certain obstacles make it difficult to make the trip happen, the absence of a direct air connection between the two countries and difficulty of obtaining a visa, even with the introduction of biometric fingerprint. 

This requirement has been eased out by taking a prior appointment at the respective VFS counter of the city in which the applicant is currently residing. 

From the point of view of air connectivity, Air India has begun negotiations with the aviation authorities to establish a possible direct connection to Spain by the end of 2016 or in 2017. This route would drive more trips to Spain and would be of great advantage for the Iberian Peninsula.

How are you engaging with the agent community? How important are they, given that OTAs have come up in a big way in India?

To cater to the travel trade, we have organized presentations in several cities this year: Pune, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad, roadshows (workshops & networking evenings) in Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata in October, fully hosted destination familiarization trips for selected MICE focused Indian travel trade and are studying the possibility of introducing an online travel trade training course. 

Travel agents and tour operators are still a very important source of business for us and we are actively involved in B2B engagement with them.

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