Skift Take

Some international travelers have been reconsidering their planned trips this year, even to countries safely far from the Ukraine war. Tourism leaders in France and Spain have been reacting in innovative and nimble ways.

Western Europe’s tourism recovery hiccuped in late February and early March because some travelers developed concerns about booking vacations while a war rages in Ukraine.

“It’s a terrible war that may hold back cautious American tourists, and it has been disrupting travelers even more from Japan and other parts of Asia,” said Miguel Sanz, CEO of tourism promotion agency TourSpain/Turespaña.

Responding to the challenge will test French and Spanish tourism organizations, which have been repositioning themselves to be more agile ever since the pandemic struck. That was the message industry leaders gave when speaking on Thursday in London at Skift Forum Europe.

“Cautious optimism” is the most apt catchphrase.

“When we look at customer sentiment, there was this shock one month ago, but thanks to tour operators giving information, bookings are ticking up again,” said Caroline Leboucher, CEO of tourism promotion organization Atout France.

After two years of pandemic and now with the shock of the war, many people want to relax with some positivity, Leboucher said. That dynamic presents a tourism marketing opportunity, she told Lebawit Lily Girma, Global Tourism Reporter for Skift.

Innovation in Tourism Marketing

Cooperating with sector stakeholders has been critical to making tourism marketing organizations more agile.

Sanz touted a concept of “co-marketing,” where the national tourism office works more in sync with regional marketing agencies on decisions such as which channels to advertise in and what messages to coordinate.

Spain has 17 regional offices, plus the national office.

“Instead of doing 18 campaigns, let’s put our resources together and get more leverage with our partners such as Expedia, Booking.com, or Tripadvisor,” Sanz said.

France has seen an opportunity to use its recent boom in tech startups as a way to bring a positive halo association with the country’s tourism brand.

“We’re not only a tourism destination but also a tech power, with 26 unicorns [startups that have raised more than 1 billion euro],” Leboucher said. “I like to talk with French startups to see how we can improve the French travel industry’s competitiveness thanks to tech.”

Reinforcing “Brand Europe”

Half of Spain’s visitors have visited the country more than 10 times, Sanz said. But despite having a core audience of fans, the European Travel Commission is concerned about Europe maintaining its long-term competitiveness as an appealing destination to travelers worldwide.

“We are very concerned,” Sanz said. “We need to reinforce ‘brand Europe.”

Tags: france, madrid, paris, sfe2022, skift live, skiftforum, skiftlive, spain, spain tourism, spain tourism office, tourism

Photo credit: At Skift Forum Europe in March 2022 in London, Caroline Leboucher (left) spoke with Miguel Sanz and Lebawit Lily Girma about French and Spanish tourism. Source: Skift. Russell Harper Photography / Skift