OPINION

Quality, not quantity

We will remember 2005 as a good year for tourism. Statistics, arrivals and revenue are all linked to this long-awaited miracle which came along to save our struggling economy. But can tourism get our country moving again? Hopes for a boost to our tourism sector were strong long before the launch of last year’s Olympic Games. With Barcelona as their goal, preparations aimed to promote our country and attract spectators. It is true that tourism has warmed up this year, following three or four difficult years. The tourists came in droves. But now it is time to do the math. How much did it cost to attract the extra visitors? What are our gains, current and long-term? What is the benefit to the economy as a whole? From a purely economic viewpoint, there is no way the huge expense of the Games can be balanced out by tourism gains. Having said this, we certainly cashed in on the sector’s potential this year. But it is unclear how long we can keep doing this. Equally, we cannot be sure whether all visitors were satisfied with their experience and whether we can rely upon them as unofficial promoters. What we do know is that the Tourism Ministry is busy organizing promotions, setting up dozens of new international offices and focusing on boosting tourist arrivals. But tourism is not just about numbers. It is also about the quality and variety of the services offered. And this must be borne in mind if progress is to be made.