Leonor González Menorca holds a PhD in Business Studies from the University of Zaragoza, an Executive MBA from the University of Bordeaux, and has served as chair of Business Organization at the University of La Rioja since 1996. In 2015, she became head of the Department of Economic Development and Innovation, under the auspices of La Rioja’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
What impact does tourism activity currently have on the economy of La Rioja?
La Rioja has a solvent tourism sector, with an increasingly positive impact on the local economy. In 2017, La Rioja saw a record number of visitors and overnight stays and in 2018, we beat the record for overnight stays by foreign tourists. We’ve also seen record increases in both the number of companies and employees.
What would be the optimal percentage of tourism activity in La Rioja’s GDP and why?
While La Rioja is already well positioned as a quality tourist destination, there is still plenty of room to grow and adding value to the development and wealth of our region. Between 11% and 14% is a good figure. However, beyond a percentage, our commitment is to a tourism and cultural sector that brings wealth and value to La Rioja’s economic development and to improving the quality of the services for everyone who visits us.
In what areas does tourism activity in La Rioja have the greatest potential for growth?
La Rioja’s official tourism policy is built on pillars that define us as a leading tourist region: innovation, quality, accessibility and sustainability, all of which require continuous and steadfast work. In addition, according to global trend forecasts and the evolution of travellers’ desires, wine and food tourism have a large margin for growth, as does everything connected with active tourism service companies. All this is related to experiences and emotions, which is what the 21st century tourist wants.
What other areas of interest can La Rioja develop to attract new audiences?
Sports tourism and nature, culture, congresses, shopping, language and religious tourism are areas of great interest and potential. We are focusing our work on all of these to attract a broader spectrum of the public.
Does La Rioja have the capacity to attract more overnight stays?
Yes, it does. La Rioja currently has a wide range of overnight accommodation, including hotels of all types, rural lodging, campsites, as well as short-term rental houses and apartments. The sector is constantly adapting to meet ever-changing visitor expectations and demands.
What actions can be made to raise the profile of La Rioja?
When we talk about tourism in La Rioja, we are mostly talking about wine tourism. Wine is part of our culture and essential to tourism development. We are the trail-blazers in Spain in terms of wine tourism. La Rioja Tourism has promoted the Wineries with Tours programme which now includes more than 100 registered wineries. Any visitor can easily book a wine tour, many of which also offer other types of experiences.
That said, La Rioja Tourism is also backing other resources that make La Rioja a unique destination. Under the motto ‘La Rioja Auténtica’ (the authentic Rioja) we are promoting activities revolving around heritage, culture, sports, nature, adventure, dinosaur footprints and fossils, gastronomy, and others. So many of the sights and sounds that make La Rioja a unique destination can be found in our towns and villages. This means that tourism can be a source of sustainable development and wealth for the entire region.
LA RIOJA, TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
“We are working to enhance the resources that make us a unique destination,” says González Menorca. “La Rioja’s plan for tourist excellence lays out our work, focusing on wine tourism, cultural tourism, active and nature-based tourism, conference tourism, and pilgrimage tourism connected with the Way of St. James and the Ignatian Way. All of these areas draw travellers from both Spain and abroad,” she adds.
La Rioja Tourism has launched a marketing campaign called #LaRiojaautentica, says González Menorca, “and we continue to promote travel and meetings with Spanish and international tour operators and with the travel industry press. We are also bolstering La Rioja Tourism social networks in English, French and German, participating in the most important national and international tourism fairs and collaborating with the leading online agencies in the travel sector.”