Eduardo Rodríguez Osés, General Director of Culture and Tourism, Government of La Rioja
Is the tourism sector having an increasing impact on La Rioja’s GDP?
Of course. It’s having a very positive impact, around 10%, in an economy primarily focused on industry, agriculture and the service sector. It’s also the driving force behind development in rural areas.
What type of tourists are mostly interested in La Rioja?
From the youngest visitors to senior citizens, anyone who’s willing to let La Rioja work its charm on them. Visitors from Spain and other countries come to La Rioja to explore this small corner of the world. They’re surprised not only by the wine culture but also by the scenery, the people and the amazing range of things to see and do: castles, wineries, monasteries and world-class tapa bars.
What do you think of the annual increase in La Rioja’s Michelin stars?
It’s a very positive development, a source of pride for all of La Rioja. Our exceptional cuisine is getting the international recognition it deserves. This acknowledgement underscores the important role cuisine plays in our lifestyle, our know-how, innovation and the quality of our products. Some of the best moments are spent around the table with great food and wine.
We’re proud to have two Michelin-star restaurants in Logroño (Kiro Sushi and Ícaro), one in Ezcaray (Echaurren) and one in Daroca de Rioja (Venta Moncalvillo). They are all leading exponents of the avant-garde and tradition. And, above all, they’re the ambassadors for our quality produce.
What objectives has your department set?
One of the major goals and challenges is the internationalization of our tourism offer. We’re working on professionalizing and modernizing the sector, and creating new and innovative tourism experiences. We also want to extend the international brand to include the wide variety of attractions offered across the region.
La Rioja is a privileged placed with a reputation for crafting world-class wines. Landscapes, cuisine, the cradle’ of the Spanish language… these are all attractions that draw visitors from around the globe. We want to continue to unlock the region’s great potential.
And what strategies are in place to reach your goals?
Carry out direct promotion activities abroad, plus online and offline communication, improve training in the sector, design professional missions and workshops; In short, work closely with the tourism sector to develop destinations based on a shared vision and a coherent long-term approach.
I could give so many examples of the new and inspiring tourism products that we’ve created through La Rioja Tourism: historical routes (Carlos V, Sagasta, Espartero), literary routes (La Rioja, magical landscape), artistic routes (Torrebús, a bus that takes visitors to see defensive towers), heritage routes (the route of the forgotten monks), among others. We’re also improving national and international ground and air transport to different destinations, depending on the season; plus focusing on family, romantic and shopping destinations. These have been our lines of work in recent years.
Tell us three things that any visitor to La Rioja should not miss.
Enjoy our food and wine to experience our way of life first-hand. Of course, I’d recommend visiting the birthplace of the Spanish language, San Millán de la Cogolla, a World Heritage Site, or discover some of our monasteries rich in art and history. I’d also encourage visitors to explore the countryside and observe the incredible changes in nature throughout the year. Enjoy nature on foot, by bike, on horseback or Segway, from a hot-air balloon or a paraglider. Or ride the rapids in our rivers.
A group of European travelers are passing through Spain. How would you convince them to stop for a few days in La Rioja?
I’d assure them that getting to know La Rioja and its people will leave a lasting impression. They’ll taste some of the world’s best wines and visit memorable wineries with unique architecture and steeped in history; they’ll enjoy traditional cuisine made with quality ingredients. They’ll follow the echoes of ancient civilizations and the fossilized tracks of animals long extinct; or they can go to San Millán de la Cogolla to visit the ‘cradle’ of the Spanish language at the monasteries of Suso and Yuso; or they can experience the variety of landscapes throughout the region.
All this coupled with a the warm, open, personable character of the people of La Rioja.
What are the most compelling arguments to attract visitors to La Rioja?
One of La Rioja’s best assets is its authenticity, rooted in its cultural landscapes and in the customs and traditions of its people. La Rioja is a safe comfortable destination, a place where people can appreciate the food and the culture of wine, a place that is known internationally, with a rich heritage and natural beauty all within short distances.