Catalonia will be ramping up promotion of its culinary appeal next year as it celebrates being named European Region of Gastronomy for 2016.
The tourist board’s UK and Ireland director said the UK trade should expect several events focusing on Catalan cuisine, including high-profile chefs from the region coming over to the UK.
“Many Brits don’t really understand Catalonian cuisine; people think that everything is tapas but it’s not quite what people expect,” said Vicenc Capdevila. He highlighted the fact that the Costa Brava region of Catalonia has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world as an indicator of the region’s gastronomic excellence.
Focussing on cuisine, nature and activities is part of the tourist board’s strategy to draw visitors out of Barcelona and into the surrounding region.
“People that have come to Barcelona come back again and again and we don’t want that to stop, but there is so much you can do within 20 minutes of Barcelona, from beautiful vineyards and less-known Gaudi buildings to cycling green-ways and quiet beaches,” he explained.
Catalonia is also waiting to hear if it has won a bid to host the Ryder Cup in 2022. “The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest sports event in the world after the Olympic Games. We have one of the best golf courses in the world in Catalonia and we’d be very excited to host this event.”
Vicenc described Catalonia’s UK market as having had “an amazing year”. In the nine months to September, 1.5 million Brits visited Catalonia, which is a 4.5% increase on the same period last year. Critically, expenditure by British visitors has increased by 8.5%.
Other source markets have also performed well, with arrivals from Canada 24.6% up, the US 21.3% up and France 10.4% up (all for the period October 2014 to September 2015, compared to the previous year).
Its Russian market, however, is 38% down.