1 December saw the launch of the Madrid-Delhi route, a direct connection that ‘shortens’ the distance between two cities and two countries. Air India launched the new route, which will initially include three flights per week, as part of a strategy of cooperation and fellowship in which Madrid City Council has played a prominent role.
The city of Madrid has a particular interest in India as a market. In fact, since Carmena’s government took office the City Council has implemented a number of measures aimed at strengthening the Spanish capital’s position in a country which, according to Turespaña’s estimates, will send out fifty million tourists between now and 2020. “We believe it is a milestone and an extremely important resource for those millions of visitors who will now find it much easier to visit our city and our country”, says Luis Cueto, General Coordinator of the Mayor’s Office.
The city’s interest in the Asian country is even more understandable when two factors are borne in mind. First, numbers of Indian tourists are rising significantly but remain low (nearly 24,000 tourists in 2015, 34% more than in 2014); and second, Indian visitors have a high average spend, via card: 148 euros compared to the 128 euros averaged by tourists from other markets. With the three flights per week offered by this new route alone, approximately 36,000 travellers are expected to visit annually.
Impact of Bollywood
One of the first measures taken was to ‘return’ the IIFA Awards (International Indian Film Academy) ceremony to a European setting, more specifically, Madrid. The Spanish capital managed to secure the event for a European city for the first time in nine years, adding a new dimension to its international image, not only in terms of tourism but also as a host of leading international events. It did so in a year that commemorated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and India.
With a municipal contribution of one million euros, the Indian film awards ceremony attracted 15,000 visitors, many of whom were from the United Kingdom, Germany and India, and had a clear impact on numerous aspects of life in Madrid. The overall economic impact of the visitors amounted to 12 million euros; however, for instance, the level of consumption and the resulting profit for local businesses, especially retail businesses, rose 57% against the same period the previous year. In the hotel sector, IIFA week translated into the reservation of over 3,000 hotel nights.
In terms of promotion abroad, the presence of 350 local, national and international members of the press equated to a global media impact of 196 million euros and resulted in the ‘setting’ of Madrid reaching the homes of 850 million viewers (600 million in India and more than 200 million in the rest of the world). This impact was, according to Cueto, “an endorsement of the public company Air India’s decision to launch a direct route. The millions of viewers that followed the ceremony saw an open and very attractive city, creating a very significant expectation for visitors to Madrid”.
The repercussions of hosting the ceremony extended to other areas of activity. It served, for example, to open the door to Madrid as a possible location for movie shoots for an industry that has made India the most prolific producer of films in the world, with over 1,200 premieres every year in over twenty languages, according to a survey by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
Against this cinematic backdrop, Madrid also seized the opportunity to host the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, a meeting place for strengthening business relations, creating commercial opportunities and laying the foundations for future partnerships. The final outcome was a collaboration agreement between the FICCI and the Chamber of Commerce to contribute towards strengthening ties between companies and industries in the two countries.
Promotion of tourism
While the IIFA Awards were the single initiative with the greatest scope and impact, the City Council constantly works to improve Madrid’s position in India, largely through the Madrid Destino Tourism Department. Last October, for instance, it participated in the Direct Seminars in support of Tourism Marketing, where it was able to promote itself not only in Mumbai, which organised the event, but also in Bangalore and Kolkata. It engaged in the same sort of promotion at the ITB Fair in Singapore, which is a strategic state in terms of promoting attractions and winning over tourists from Southeast Asia.
The launch of the new flight route, which will be presented tonight in the Vaulted Room at Conde Duque, is being supported by the Madrid Destino Tourism Department with promotional and awareness-raising measures such as the advertising campaign planned for New Delhi aimed at promoting Madrid and the new route, as well as fam trips (with tour operators) and press trips designed to introduce journalists to Madrid’s tourist attractions.
In the same vein, through Madrid Destino the City Council is also taking part in the working group to promote flight routes at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport. Additional group members include Aena, Turespaña, the Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Government of Madrid. It also attends the meetings of the Time Zone Executive Committee, in the role of observer./