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Palabras de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias en la inauguración de la IV Edición de la Feria Steps

Londres(Royal Horticultural Halls), 31.03.2004

F

irst of all I would like to take this opportunity, when we are about to inaugurate the Spanish Tourist Exchange for Professionals in London to publically express my personal gratitude, and to do so as well on behalf of all Spaniards, for the worldwide sympathy and moving examples of deep solidarity our nation has received following the savage terrorist attacks which took place three weeks ago in Madrid. This support and warmth has been gratefully received and it reassures us that we are not alone in the ongoing battle against terrorism, whatever form it may take or wherever it may come from.

Surely we can recognize that tourism is a dynamic sector that bares the capability to react quickly in the event of attacks such as the one we just suffered. In fact it may be said that those attacks are specifically aimed to destabilize us all by for example dampening the prospects of travel on a global level, targeting vital economic interests, or simply by eroding the sense of personal and collective security no matter where he live.

However, the professionalism and strength of the tourist industry has contributed greatly to offer a proper response to such a threat as it confronted this critical situation with remarkable resolve using all its ability and resources. All businesses related to tourism have an important experience in confronting adversity, and therefore have responded with great efficiency, thus underlining the vital role that this industry plays in the Spanish economy.

Our tourism Industry also proved its ability to react to changing circumstances throughout the past year. A combined effort of all parties involved successfully overcame the effects of a generally considered adverse year for tourism worldwide. As we know, 2003 was scarred by international uncertainties, tensions and conflicts, as well as an economic recession, all of which caused a significant slip in tourism?s global figures. The results we achieved in Spain were very satisfactory, to the point that our country came to be the second most popular tourist destination in the world with over 52 million visitors, a slight increase in the number of arrivals with regard to the preceding year. This upswing in growth seems to be the prevailing tendency in the first quarter of 2004, as the Secretary of State for Commerce and Tourism mentioned earlier.

I am pleased to know that the Spanish Travel Industry has great experience in working along with the professionals who are here with us today participating in this trade fair, so I hope you can benefit from this event also by taking the opportunity it represents to deepen your knowledge and update the information about all the new and interesting tourist offers we have for your clients.

I imagine that you are well aware that more than 16 million British tourists visited Spain last year, making the United Kingdom our most important market. That is good news, but even better are the prospects derived from the positive figures shown by the first months of this year. Our market continues to show signs of good health and is ready to receive above the figure of 52,5 million tourists achieved last year.

Every day Spain presents new experiences with numerous opportunities that satisfy the needs of today?s modern traveller. Increasingly, people visiting Spain on holiday from the UK not only enjoy the tourist facilities which our coasts and cities have to offer, under our bright sun and beautiful skies but also come closer to our rich culture and historic heritage, making use of our modern infrastructure and public services, coming into contact with Spanish people and enjoying our way of life. Indeed they may even wish to learn our language, spoken by so many millions of people around the world.

This image of Spain, as an open country, welcoming and friendly, with efficient public services, well developed infrastructures and a rich and diverse tourist industry, is the one we wish to continue promoting. That is why we are here passing on the message via the international tourism industry.

I am sure that, as the past three editions of STEPS have proved, this year will also be highly satisfactory for all its participants, both Spanish and British. I hope it will be an occasion to reinforce business opportunities between professionals in the industry and that it will also allow them to analyze both markets from a profound strategic stand point.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Joaquín Monfort, who receives today STEPS Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his work leading the Travel scene tour operator, one of the main organisers of city-breaks and cultural travel to Spain and, in general, for all his work in favour of British tourism to Spain.

It is clear to me that the success in participation at this fair highlights the excellent relations between Spain and the United Kingdom in the tourism sector and serves as a solid proof of how essential and solid is the relationship between both countries. May this continue to be so for years to come. Thank you very much for attending.

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