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JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Maintaining a good in-bound traveller number record is not that hard when the country has a workable tourism infrastructure, including a digital-related infrastructure ecosystem as well as friendly human resources. Spain as well as Thailand are good examples.

Tourism in Spain has contributed 11 percent to their gross domestic product (GDP) and absorbs 2 million workers (13 percent of the country’s workforce), with more than 68 million tourists arriving annually. Tourism in Spain rose with a 31 percent CAGR over the last five years. Aside from the excellent facilities Spain’s tourism sector offers, other factors including insecurity associated with other major vacation destinations: this has put Spain in a privileged position, as a country that is both attractive and safe.

At least there are four factors in play here. First, a well-developed digital ecosystem infrastructure. While many bookings are still made offline, travelers still frequently use digital tools to conclude their purchases.  In fact, according to Statista, digital travel sales are forecast to reach US$818 billion by 2020, with Travel Technology Europe claiming that 58 percent of travel industry businesses will raise their spending on tech in 2017.

Spain allows many digital industry players to support their tourism. For example TravelPerk, a free Barcelona-based travel booking and management platform specifically designed for business travel. It delivers tools such as centralized invoicing, simplified itinerary emails and expense integration to deliver a seamless service to users. Since starting up in 2015, this new site has raised $8.5 million in funding to date.

Secondly, Spain makes a maximum effort for their most favorable city destination to host many international events. An example is the upcoming annual World Routes forum that will be hosted in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and a leading tourist destination. Nine million tourists and four million cruise passengers visit Barcelona every year, with the wider Catalan region welcoming 17 million tourists in total.

During that event, Barcelona will welcoming the Aviation Industry and bringing together senior decision-makers from airports, destinations and airlines to negotiate new air services. Around 2,600 delegates from 130 countries will meet for four days at Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via. They will also be joined by 610 airport and 90 tourism authorities from across the globe.

Third, and the most important factor is anticipating increasingly sophisticated travelers who are becoming more demanding. Thus, the challenge is to attract tourists who want to spend a little more. Spain has many beautiful beaches, yet they realized the urgency of improving quality and offering a wider range of activities than just drinking and soaking up the sun. A tourism model based on sun and sand and competing at the lowest price is simply not sustainable in the long term and leads to a sluggish rate of tourists spending

Spain started to build hotels on its Mediterranean beaches in the 1950s for sun-starved northern Europeans, and has since become the third-most-visited country in the world, with the highest tourist revenues in Europe. They also promote Spanish attractions and culture beyond the beach, such as the historic cities of Sevilla and Granada or the museums and galleries of Madrid. They are just not stopping to regenerate and compete with Orlando, Dubai and all the new destinations opening up, because people are no longer just coming for sun and sea: they want something more.

Emerging Waves of Chinese Tourists

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Spain has managed to anticipate the new emerging Chinese tourist trend. According to the ‘Chinese Tourists to Europe Trend Report 2017’ jointly released by the China Tourism Academy (a research branch of the National Tourism Administration) and two leading travel agencies, Huayuan MNB and Ctrip, the number of Chinese tourists in Europe in first quarter increased by 103 percent over last year and is projected to increase by 10 percent to 5.5 million Chinese  during 2017. Barcelona was the most popular urban destinations among Chinese visitors.

Last year, over 100 million Chinese tourists crossed the borders of their country. This seems important but you have to bear in mind that 70 percent of the Chinese stay at home in the mainland to travel while only 7 percent go abroad. This means that there is still a huge potential in outbound Chinese tourism as the average income grows, along the rise of an upper-middle class. Considering why Spain seems appealing to the Chinese, its culture, gastronomy and a good climate are the three main reasons why this nation has become one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.

The Chinese tourist is the biggest spender, especially for luxury brands. About 82 percent of Chinese tourists consider shopping as one of their main activities when they are travelling and they usually buy international luxury brands, because in Spain they are 30 percent cheaper than in China. According to the World Tourism Organization, Chinese visitors spent over 100,000 million dollars outside its borders last year. Cataluna and Madrid are their favorite destinations in Spain and they spent around 2,040 dollars on average per capita.

In addition, the food is an important part of Spanish culture, that is the reason why Chinese tourists are very curious about Spanish food. Paella is the most successful dish and also the most representative part of Spanish cuisine. Usually, Chinese tourists love paella because is similar to their eating habits. In addition, they are very interested in Spanish wines, due to their high quality.

Thailand Community-Based Tourism

Meanwhile, Thailand is another story. They are not only familiar with its Buddha relics, beaches and street food, but also an iconic community-based tourism (CBT) in Sam Chuk market and Klong Suan market. CBT is an alternative approach that has gained popularity with the government and private sectors as part of the strategies for conservation of natural resources and development in Thailand.

Local participation in decision-making processes, local ownership, collective responsibility and sharing of resources, are key factors in the success of community-based tourism in Sam Chuk traditional market, while sharing of resources is the key factor in successful community-based tourism at Sam Chuk market, which is followed by collective responsibility, participation in decision-making processes and local ownership.

Last year, according to STR Global data Thailand welcomed nearly 30 million visitors, an increase of over 20 per cent over previous year, fuelled by China and Korea, where the bulk of the business is low-yield tour series compared with higher spending and longer-staying markets such as the UK. Large congresses, too, have not returned to Thailand’s shores since the coup in 2015. With the next few months looking tough due to factors such as slower economic growth in Asia and China, and weaker corporate demand, tourism players are anxious there will be no bad news such as the Owens incident to derail the 30-million-visitor number.

Indonesia is currently steeping to double its foreign tourism arrivals from a current 10 million to 20 million over the next eight years, as well as doubling the tourism contribution to GDP, from around 4 percent to 8 percent in the same period. Will Indonesia learn the important lessons from other countries’ successes?

Writing by Yosi Winosa, Email: