The adventure of Tuna Fish

 

 

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Every year, around the month of March, the tunas commence an amazing journey that takes them from the cold waters of the North Atlantic all the way into the Mediterranean sea.

On their way, they all have to pass through Cadiz coastline and the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, and this is where all the action happens. Cádiz, one of the most beautiful provinces in Spain, and part of the 8 provinces in Andalusia, has excellent beaches and lovely small coastal villages. Four of them are Barbate, Conil, Zahara de los Atunes, and Tarifa, and the Almadraba tuna fishing method is used here. This is an ancient technique with hundreds of years (Romans already used it, and it comes from the Phoenicians times). The word ¨Almadraba¨ has Arabic roots and means ¨place of killing¨. However, The Almadraba is not aggressive and is respectful of both the species and the environment.

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As the fish reach and pass the shores of these 4 villages, fishermen await on their boats by the bay with their huge nets, building a circle between all boats where tunas are selected, caught, killed and pulled in to the boats. Men also jump into the nets and help catching tunas that can be up to 600kg. Only the strongest tunas are caught, whereas the others are returned to continue the journey and help to carry on the future generation.

Watching how the fishermen catch the tuna is quite impressive, and just for a selected few, due to restrictions. The spectacle is impressive, though.

The month of May is considered the best for this, since the tunas have enough fat. And a good amount of all the fishing goes to the demanded and selective Japanese market.

Most towns hold annual tuna festivals throughout May and June, and they´re all worth visiting. Bars and restaurants prepare gourmet delicacies around tuna fish, and the best chefs of the area offer selective red tuna options in all their menus.

It is also quite interesting to learn about the ¨Ronqueo¨, the method through which the Almadraba tuna is skinned and filleted by hand, in a way that nothing is wasted. Many restaurants have experts coming to do live ¨ronqueos¨ during this season. The word ronqueo comes from ¨roncar¨, which means ¨to snore¨ in Spanish. The reason is easy: when experts are cutting the tuna, they use special knives that make a peculiar sound when touching the spine and bones of the fish with the knife as they cut it, and it resembles the sound of ¨snoring¨.

For those wanting to learn more or experience the season of the tuna fish, we can help with private access to fishing boats to see the catching live (very restricted), as well as bespoke itineraries to the finest bars and restaurants along the coast to enjoy the best recipes. Or meet and greet with local chefs and experts, see a ronqueo, or do the local ¨ruta del atún¨ (gourmet tuna routes) with a foodie expert, over the different villages celebrating it in May and June.

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Little Travel Stories: Granada, Alhambra and so much more

 

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The impressive and world-known Alhambra palace, the most visited monument in Spain,  is the reference point when it comes to talk or write about Granada in Andalusia. It dominates all aspects of the city, and indeed it is a must-do for all visitors (booking in advance is essential).

But Granada has so much more. A mid-sized city, easy to walk, unless you prefer to explore the beautiful Albaicín quarter, full of slopes, alleys and quiet charming streets, where tourists seek the best views over the Alhambra. These can be found at the popular Mirador de San Nicolás lookout point, where floods of people gather around sunset to enjoy the views. But for a complete city view, here´s a tip: get a taxi and ask to drive you to Ermita San Miguel, an old church on top of a hill, just 10min drive from downtown. The best unobstructed views over Granada and Alhambra, with the sun setting right behind.

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We spent a weekend in the city and chose a lovely small boutique hotel, Casa 1800. They also have a sister hotel in Sevilla. This one in Granada, with less than 30 rooms, is a small piece of tranquility in the heart of downtown. Expect charming rooms and attentive service. Some of the rooms overlook the Alhambra. As an added value, the hotel offers a complimentary coffee and pastry service every afternoon to all guests at the lovely interior patio, which is the center of the property. We stayed at Suite 1800, their signature room, a huge and spacious Suite with jacuzzi bath, separate living-room and big balconies with views over Alhambra palace.

From the hotel, it is easy to explore the city. The popular Carrera Del Darro Street by the small Darro river is just in front of the hotel, and it is the starting point from where to walk the Albaicín neighbourhood. Tea shops, small cafes and restaurants are easy to find all over.  I like Carmen De Aben Humeya, a little cozy restaurant with splendid views, outdoor terrace and great local cuisine.

The Realejo district is becoming a fashionable area lately. Also a few minutes walk from the hotel, it has become a kind of soho area, full of stylish restaurants, coffee-shops, jazz and music clubs, galleries… try Picoteca 3Maneras, a modern tapas bar and restaurant with surprising local dishes combined with a Northern touch as a reminder of the origins of the owner. Just a few steps from there, Papaupa is also surprising: a retro decor, cozy atmosphere and fusion dishes. They also open for afternoon coffee and late night drinks.

Culture: spend some time visiting the cathedral and nearby streets. The very interesting Royal Chapel is where the Catholic Kings are buried, and you can also see not only the grave but some of the original clothes and jewels they used during their reign. And right next to the chapel, narrow streets where artisans used to work and sell their products are now full of shops with handcraft, but the charm of those times still remain.

Fine dining: Arriaga Restaurant is the place to go. The setting is spectacular: the highest floor of the Memoria de Andalucia Museum, at 60 meters high, and with glass on both sides of the restaurant walls so you can enjoy amazing city views in all directions. However, the food will call most of the attention: a combination of local and basque cuisine, excellent product, great wines (with some surprising ones from Granada), and seamless service. Daniel the maitre is a great host, while owner Álvaro Arriaga, a basque chef who settled years ago in Granada, is the soul of the place. Their tasting menus are really interesting. Booking in advance is essential.

Daytrip: Sierra Nevada, the only place to ski in Southern Spain, is 1h drive from the city. The amazing white-washed mountains and snow landscapes are totally worth it. Between December and March, ski season takes place and it is a popular weekend destination. But you can also go during summer time, less crowded and same as spectacular nature. The finest resort is El Lodge, a small luxury boutique hotel right next to ski slopes, with comfortable rooms and chic atmosphere. Only complaint would be their Sun Deck outdoor restaurant, which still lacks efficient service to match a 5 star, but hopefully should improve.

Distances: Granada is 2h approx drive from Sevilla, 1,30h from Málaga and  about 2h from Córdoba. Its airport connects with Barcelona, Madrid and other international destinations.

For private tailormade itineraries to Granada, insider tips or additional activities or requests concerning the city of Alhambra palace, please feel free to contact directly.

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BLANCONCIERGE is a privately owned Luxury Travel & Concierge agency based in Seville, Spain, and managed by founder Eduardo Blanco.

 

 

Little travel stories: Málaga, a perfect getaway

 

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The capital of Costa del Sol is widely known as a holiday destination. Perfectly connected through its international airport, Málaga has transformed itself into a culture hub and a vibrant city with several possibilities. We spent a weekend there in January, here´s our little travel story:

Travelling from Sevilla as we did is just a couple hours away by highway (fast and easy), but as mentioned, the airport is very well connected with most major airports in Europe. Delta also flies directly from the US.

Málaga is very walkable. Downtown area is not accesible for cars, which makes it very comfortable and without traffic noise. There are plenty of private apartments that can be rented for short stays, and very good luxury apartments, many of them with great sunny rooftops. However, on this occasion we recommend the brand new Gran Hotel Miramar, the latest luxury hotel in town, part of The Leading Hotels Of The World. It promises to be the landmark hotel in town, great sea views, attentive service and comfortable rooms. Its rooftop will also be open for the summer season.

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From the hotel, it´s just a short nice stroll along the promenade into Muelle Uno, the harbor area. Cruise ships dock here, and it´s full of shops, restaurants, and the Pompidou Museum, one of the many museums in the city and part of the visual landscape of Muelle Uno.

Gastronomy is one of the main attractions of Málaga. The number of tapas bars has increased lately, and the variety of restaurants and places for lunch/dinner makes it hard to choose. For lunch, we tried Taberna Garcia, a very small tapas place in a quiet street behind the Mercado de la Merced market. Nice service and dishes worth the visit. Booking in advance is essential on weekends. For dinner, La Cosmopolita restaurant & tapas bar is an excellent choice, with chef Dani Carnero taking care of guests.

But before dinner, the place to go is the small mountain of Gibralfaro, for one simple reason: the best views over the city. Easy to reach on foot (15min of slopes but easy to do on a paved walking small way), the reward comes at the end. Go at sunset, and stay until the city lights appear. Totally worth it.

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The following day, there´s a fun daytrip to consider seriously: Caminito Del Rey, a popular walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near the small and charming village of Ardales. All is just 1h drive from Málaga. Tickets for guided tours must be booked online in advance. Expect breath-taking views, impressive nature and beautiful landscapes.

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Back in Málaga, it´s time to explore some of the trendy spots. Try La Sole Del Pimpi, the modern version of the well-known traditional El Pimpi, and located right next. At La Sole, you can find signature cocktails, Asian food and a fashionable atmosphere. But a visit to Málaga is not complete without its amazing sweet wines. Taste some at La Odisea, a surprising lovely old bar with wine barrels, bohemian decor, old books, and a charming small outdoor patio in the back.

Museums in Málaga are all great. Our favorites are Picasso Museum, a must-do, Carmen Thyssen, the CAC, and Pompidou for modern-art lovers.

Finally, and since the Costa del Sol is perfectly connected East to West by highway, visiting the Axarquía region is a very good idea. This is the mountain region next to Málaga, full of small charming white villages. We chose Frigiliana, about 40min drive along the coast, and known as one of the most beautiful villages out there. Walk the alleys and streets, buy some local handcraft and try their local cheeses and wines.  Top it up with a coffee with sea views in the town of Nerja, just 15min from Frigiliana, before returning to Málaga.

Málaga is about 1.30h drive from Granada, just 2 hours away from Sevilla or Córdoba. But these are other small travel stories that deserve separate upcoming posts.

When to go: Costa del Sol has a very specific climate, the mountains surrounding Málaga and Marbella create a micro-climate that keeps mild temperatures all year round and sunny weather most of the time.

 

For an insider private trip to Costa del Sol, Málaga and Marbella, please contact us below:

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Eduardo Blanco provides luxury travel planning and concierge services in Spain. From private transfers to luxury hotel booking with dedicated attention and vip treatment, bespoke expert local guides, car & driver disposals, daytrips, off-the-beaten path experiences or gourmet journeys. Upon request only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D/2, la snackería del Mercer Sevilla

El hotel boutique de lujo Mercer Sevilla, recientemente abierto en el centro neurálgico de la capital hispalense (pero muy bien situado en una zona tranquila como es la calle Castelar, junto al barrio del Arenal), acaba de inaugurar su snackería, una selección de snacks y bocados que se toman mayormente con los dedos (de ahí el nombre), y que se disfrutan y sirven en su excelente cóctel-bar.

 

El menú abarca propuestas de todo tipo, con el detalle común que las une: casi todos se sirven sobre azulejos sevillanos a modo de plato, un guiño a la cultura local y, en mi opinión, un acierto. No olvidemos que el hotel se sitúa en lo que era una antigua casa palacio sevillana que ha mantenido la esencia tras la formidable transformación de la mano del estudio Cruz & Ortiz.

Cortezas con mayonesa de jamón, pimentón y romero, aguacate y erizos, cornete de atún y wasabi, ostra-caviar, aceituna violá, o pionono de queso payoyo y limón confitado… son algunos de los snacks o pequeñas tapas, siempre servidas para compartir, que se pueden disfrutar y sugieren ¨maridar¨ con algunos de sus cócteles en carta. La coctelería merece mención aparte, pero la combinación de esta carta de pequeños bocados con la diversidad de cócteles disponibles es elección acertada, y más que recomendable.

 

 

El entorno tampoco deja dudas: el lobby del hotel es elegante a la vez que discreto, buen jazz de fondo, y ambiente muy tranquilo, que invita a la conversación calmada. Si a ello sumamos un servicio personal sencillamente excelente, el resultado es fácil de adivinar: un hotel de lujo con mayúsculas.

 

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Próximamente también verá la luz su acogedor restaurante, que sumado a las 12 habitaciones del hotel y la terraza con piscina, forman un establecimiento con carácter propio y que tiene todos los visos de convertirse en un referente de la ciudad.

Situación: Calle Castelar, 26   http://www.mercersevilla.com

 

 

Top Events To Attend In Spain This Year

No doubt Spain is a country full of festivities, parties and special celebrations all year round. But there are some events happening that catches attention to most travelers interested in Spain that can be added to other exclusive ones. Here is our selection and ideas around them:

February 22nd to 26th – ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair.

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In its 36th edition, ARCOMadrid – one of the most important contemporary art fairs worldwide – will gather once again the most innovative artists and top critics in the contemporary scene. There’ll be a series of Professional Meetings where art critics, galleries and artists can better understand the Fair’s content. The Forum will host talks on art collecting, organized in collaboration with Banco Santander Foundation. ARCOMadrid 2017 will have Argentina as guest country.

What we can do: secure tickets and passes to the event, secure private tours around ARCO with experts and art professionals, arrange private visits to Madrid´s top art galleries…

February 23rd to March 5th – Cadiz Carnival

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One of the most popular carnivals in Spain, yet to be discovered by many visitors. A full city that gets packed those days and lives for the carnival with street parades and amazing local atmosphere at every corner. A carnival for the people and to immerse in an authentic whirpool of music, colours and fun in one of the most charming cities of Spain.

What we can do: book the best accommodation and private apartments around, arrange city tours to mingle with the locals, go tapas with them, or book tables for the finest seafood restaurants in Cádiz.

February 17th to 26th – Málaga Spanish Film Festival

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Since 1998, the city of Malaga in Andalusia has hosted this festival dedicated to showcasing and promoting Spanish film.Every year the festival includes previously unseen feature-length and short films and documentaries. Malaga is transformed into a centre for debate and a meeting point for figures in the national film industry, as well as showcasing a wide range of productions.

What we can do: arrange experiences around the festival, access and afterparties, yacht parties, cultural tours in the city, day trips, Marbella shopping…

April 9th to 16th – Holy Week in Seville

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 Prepare yourself to experience the most amazing expression of religion and faith that comes out to the streets of a city that lives for it. Crowds gather to see all the processions (around 60 of them) invading the streets simultaneously during 7 days, an impressive baroque show not to be missed.

What we can do: organize a full experience around it with local experts on Seville´s Holy Week, as you follow them on their particular pilgrimage around the churches, processions and the best spots to see all the action. But don´t be confused, it is also a week to enjoy the city within the cultural and gastronomic aspect.

April 23rd El Clásico, Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona

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 The biggest football (soccer) game ever. Attending this fantastic game between the most powerful teams in the world is a show beyond compare, few sport events come close to this. The impressive Santiago Bernabeu stadium will be the host.

What we can do: secure seats, vip tickets and boxes, provide private transportation to the game, book the best hotels around the stadium…

April 30 to May 7th – Feria de Abril, Seville

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 After the Holy Week, this city completely turns from a religious experience to a full week of 24h fiesta, literally. Hundreds of colourful casetas in a dedicated area within Los Remedios neighbourhood and built for the ocassion are home to serious dance, sing, drink and socialize. During those days, Sevilla also hosts some of the most important bullfights in Spain.

What we can do: take you to the Feria the way it must be done: with locals. Arrange horse carriages to get there in style or horses to ride around the Feria, secure the best seats for bullfights, prepare visits to the best designers for flamenco outfits for ladies where they can rent them and get dressed, take you to the best privately-owned casetas, and if you don´t sleep in the mornings after a full night of fiesta, explore the city with the company of the best private guides.

May 12th to 14th – Formula 1 Gran Premio de España

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The F1 returns to its yearly date at Montmeló circuit in Barcelona. Expect the usual great F1 show that comes with it and the passion for speed.

What we can do: secure tickets, vip seats and paddock access. Meet & Greet with some drivers, hospitality experiences, afterparties in the city, sports cars rentals…

Plácido Domingo – different shows in Spain

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 As part of his 2017 world tour, the Spanish tenor and one of the world´s best, will be performing different shows across Spain: La Traviata at Palau de Las Arts Valencia in February,  Thais at Liceu Barcelona in March, and Macbeth at Teatro Real in Madrid in July.

What we can do: secure tickets and vips seats, arrange accommodation at the finest hotels in every city together with private transfers to the shows, organize experiences around music and opera with experts, musicians or singers, prepare visits to luthiers…

July-August: Mérida Classical Theatre Festival

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 A new edition of the prestigious Mérida Classical Theatre Festival will be held in this historic town in the province of Badajoz in July and August. The event is dedicated to theatre, and while the fundamental core of texts are of Greco-Latin origin, the festival is also open to the dramatic arts in general and includes music performances and a film season. One of the event’s main attractions is its stunning setting: the Roman theatre dating from the end of the first century B.C., and which has today been restored to its original function as the venue for this festival. Exact dates to be confirmed.

What we can do: arrange passes and access to the shows, private cultural and archaeological tours in Mérida or Cáceres, gourmet experiences around the Ibérico ham, accommodation in luxury country homes…

July 29th to August 5th: Copa del Rey de Vela (King´s Cup), at The Real Club Náutico in Palma de Mallorca

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The Copa del Rey is one of the most important sailing regattas of the Mediterranean sea and Spain’s most historic and celebrated yachting event. Once a year international celebrities, Spanish royalty and the world’s best sailors come together in Palma de Mallorca for a glorious week of offshore competition and onshore festivities and the perfect combination of sun, fun and aristocracy. During the Copa del Rey, Majorca turns into the capital of sails.

What we can do: arrange tickets for the show, vip access, parties, yacht and boat rental to see the races from the sea, organize experiences around the world of sailing in the island, rent private villas or the best hotel suites during the event, plan gourmet tours and book the finest restaurants…

September 16th to 24th – San Sebastian International Film Festival

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Since its creation in 1953 it has established itself as one of the most important cinema festivals in the world. It has hosted several important events of the history of cinema, such as the international premiers of Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock.

What we can do: arrange access to premieres and afterparties, meet & greet with industry professionals, book tables at the many Michelin star restaurants or go pintxos within the amazing food scene in the city.

October 19th to 22nd: Andalucia Valderrama Masters

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Golf lovers, this is for you. One of the best European tournaments, that will surely soon be part of the Rolex series. Hosted by Sergio Garcia Foundation, and taking place at the impressive Valderrama Golf Course in stylish Sotogrande, Cádiz.

What we can do: special and vip access to the tournament – teetimes at Valderrama or the best golf courses nearby before or after the tournament days – accommodation in golf villas or private villas in stylish Sotogrande area by the harbour…

There are many other exclusive and interesting events in Spain worth discovering and attending. Please feel free to get in touch with your preferences and we will provide a list of the best events accordingly, or to arrange services on any of the events proposed.

Upon request only. For more information, please contact us at:

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BLANCONCIERGE is a privately owned Luxury Travel & Concierge agency based in Seville, Spain, and managed by founder Eduardo Blanco.

 

 

 

Dentro de la Manzana

Viajar, ya sea por motivos laborales o profesionales, es la mejor manera para darnos cuenta de que no somos mejores ni peores que el resto, que tan sólo somos uno más dentro del enorme puzle de culturas, tradiciones y formas de pensar que tenemos en el mundo.

Dentro de mi profesión, el turismo, viajar es la razón de ser. Y qué mejor ocasión para aprovechar cada desplazamiento y continuar aprendiendo de los buenos profesionales aquí y allá. Esa fue una de las razones que me hizo irme a vivir a Estados Unidos desde mediados de Septiembre hasta principios de Noviembre de este año, concretamente a Nueva York, capital del mundo para muchos y una de mis ciudades favoritas, a la que siempre me gusta volver.

Buenos profesionales en turismo hay en todas partes, y tengo la suerte de conocer a muchos de ellos, compañeros y amigos, por lo que no era necesario irme fuera de España. Pero la idea es otra. La idea es vivir otros puntos de vista, otras formas de trabajar. El mercado norteamericano, en el sector turístico, es bajo mi punto de vista, excelente. No sólo por la calidad del cliente (siempre dentro del entorno del turismo de lujo al que me dedico), sino por los métodos de trabajo de los agentes de viajes y profesionales dedicados a ello. Los norteamericanos tienen algo que saben hacer a la perfección: saben vender. Y en ese aspecto, en España estamos aún muy lejos.

No creo que se trate de criticar a cómo promocionamos el turismo en España. De hecho, somos uno de los países más visitados del mundo, por tanto un ejemplo a imitar por los demás. Pero en mi opinión, somos un mercado que vive de la renta, y que necesita renovarse o moriremos de éxito. Las felicitaciones por obtener un récord de visitantes son bienvenidas, pero la calidad de los mismos deja bastante que desear. Por ello, me preocupé en preguntar a muchos de los profesionales turísticos y clientes con los que estuve en Nueva York sobre España, sobre sus impresiones y puntos de vista.

Al preguntar sobre qué idea tenían de España recientemente, la gran mayoría me habló de modernidad, museos, cultura y gastronomía, algo positivo pues hace varios años quizás algunos de esos conceptos no habrían aparecido.

Ante mi pregunta si recibían información o noticias puntuales sobre España como destino, muchos respondieron que sí pero con matices, pues esa información les llegaba de forma intermitente, o con noticias repetitivas o ya habituales. Y al consultar sobre las palabras que aparecen en su mente al hablar sobre el turismo en España, la réplica es aplastante: sol, playas, tapas. La España de siempre, la que tan bien promocionamos a principios de los 70, y cuyo cliché sigue anclado en la mente de todos. Afortunadamente, otros conceptos han ido añadiéndose: la cultura, la gastronomía (fundamental en mi opinión) y las compras. Mi mercado es el turismo de lujo, pero cuando pregunté sobre si España es un destino de este tipo, la gran mayoría me dice que no lo ve así, salvo excepciones. Y la razón es obvia: el servicio.

No se trata de desprendernos de lo que nos ha dado de comer desde hace años (y sigue haciéndolo), sino de modernizarlo, renovarlo, darle un giro. El turismo de calidad que llega desde Estados Unidos (y desde muchos otros países), está acostumbrado a un trato personal, a no esperar, y nuestra mentalidad, nuestra idiosincrasia, nos hace tener que esforzarnos para ello. Dentro del turismo de lujo, tan sólo hemos empezado a andar, mientras otros países llevan ya un buen trecho. Y precisamente por ello debemos mirar al que lo hace bien, al que sabe, aprender de los demás, y aplicar posteriormente nuestro propio toque para diferenciarnos del resto.

Mi ciudad, Sevilla, es una de las ciudades con mayor crecimiento turístico en los últimos años. Algunos de los agentes con los que estuve en Estados Unidos me comentaban que su imagen de la ciudad es difusa. Si les hablo de la gastronomía y tapas, varios se sorprenden cuando les digo que Sevilla es la cuna del tapeo. Ah, ¿pero y Barcelona? – me dicen. No todos aciertan a decirme un monumento de la ciudad, pero varios me hablan de Málaga y sus museos, la Alhambra de Granada… y me preguntan si hay buenas conexiones a Sevilla. El cliente de alto nivel no quiere hacer muchos transbordos ni conexiones.

Nos queda mucho por hacer, pero creo que vamos por el buen camino. Algunas cosas esenciales, en mi opinión, para ir situando Sevilla, Andalucía y por ende, España, en el concierto internacional de destinos exclusivos, son:

Infraestructuras – conexiones aéreas y aeropuertos bien conectados a la ciudad. Imprescindible.

Alojamiento – hoteles que ofrezcan trato personalizado. Tenemos muchos hoteles de 5 estrellas, pero muy pocos hoteles de lujo.

Servicio – lo más importante, las personas que lo hacen posible, la base de todo. Cambiar nuestra mentalidad, entender que el cliente es el protagonista, formarse adecuadamente, idiomas, dedicación.

Experiencia – ciudades para pasear, tecnológicamente preparadas, museos y tiendas abiertos más si cabe (el turismo de lujo no entiende porqué un domingo no se puede ir de compras).

Diferenciación – Vender siempre lo mismo tiene fecha de caducidad. Hay que ser creativo, sorprender, ser diferente al resto. Todos mis clientes me piden experiencias nuevas, exclusividad, y servicio.

En España tenemos algo que no tienen los demás: alegría, gente abierta, buen tiempo, ganas de vivir. Si dejamos de pensar que somos los mejores y que aquí se vive mejor que en ningún sitio (cierto sin duda, pero relativo), y ofrecemos toda esa capacidad de potenciar lo nuestro entre nosotros y lo trasladamos fuera, esa será la clave para desarrollar un turismo de calidad y que satisfaga todas las necesidades de quienes nos visitan. No se trata de cambiar para los demás, sino adaptarnos a la vez que mantenemos nuestra propia esencia. Tenemos un potencial impresionante, tan sólo falta canalizarlo de forma exitosa. Y en eso andamos.