I met Ana Merelo in a cozy bar in the center of Valencia, between Plaça de la Reina and Plaça de l’Ajuntament. We talked tourism over a couple sparkling waters. Ana Merelo is the President of Valencia Premium and of Valencia Guias.
“The so-called low cost tourism comes without any help. The only thing necessary is a Ryanair connection. The other type of tourism, you must look for it outside and pick it up, to gain its trust” says Ana.
She knows what she is talking about. The region of Flanders in Belgium and the city of Sydney, in Australia, are the models of well-managed tourism according to her.
Valencia Premium was created in 2013. How did this initiative arise?
We wanted to make the quality offer of our destination more visible. València has companies with a great trajectory focusing on quality and offer a service of excellence; companies that invest in continuous improvements to please our visitors. All this had to be valued, and the best way to do so was gathering all the companies that share that same philosophy, years of experience and the commitment to upgrading our tourism in one association, Valencia Premium.
The high-level tourist usually shows a higher cultural level, appreciates good service, seeks the genuine values of the destinations and what’s most important for us, comes during the whole year, avoiding in many cases the peak seasons. In a nutshell, tourists looking for a quality service.
In the region of Valencia there are a large number of entities whose aim is to promote tourism: provincial and regional administrative bodies. Isn’t this an impediment to presenting a clear differentiated product?
Yes, of course. The promotional strategy should be unified for the whole territory with a clear image that identifies the Region of València and the most differentiated products that one can find there.
Flanders has an excellent tourism strategy: they focused on 4 products which are art, beer, chocolate and cycling. Then, there are also beautiful cities such as Brugge, Gent, Brussels, but the tourism strategy is based on consumable products.
Coming back to the Region of València, we can identify a number of products in which we have a clear advantage over other competitors: golf courses next to the Mediterranean sea; opera at the highest level of the world; a long history from Romans until our days; Mediterranean gastronomy; MICE destination ideal for events all the year long, etc. Those are only a few examples. We should focus on a few of them and start promoting them endlessly for years.
What is the luxury tourism and which are the benefits associated to it?
The concept of luxury tourism has evolved considerably over the past decades. Luxury tourism means impeccable service, confidence, genuine experiences rather than formalism or opulence. This kind of tourism is just perfect for any destination. It does not jam the city or the region and improves its economy.
València is not luxurious destination. It has a wide offer of hotels and quality services which together to the Mediterranean climate, makes of our territory an essential location to enjoy.
What kind of initiatives should be implemented in other to upgrade ‘Comunitat Valenciana’ brand?
València is a territory with many resources. The first action should be put into place is the implementation of a unique promotional strategy; all the entities working on tourism strategy must coordinate their strategies.
Then, the promotion by products is the most effective. The example of Basque country in Spain is very good: they focused on 3 products –gastronomy, MICE, and nature- and have gone from being irrelevant on tourism to become one of the strongest tourism destinations in Spain.
Have you developped synergies between your organisation and the board of tourism?
Absolutely yes. There is a better communication between us and the Administration.