Saturday, February 15, 2014

6 Reasons Why Travelers Should Make Spain Their Next Destination

The Philippines has a strong connection with Spain given its colonization of our country for more than 300 years during the 16th to 19th centuries. I think it would be safe to say Spanish blood still runs in many Filipinos' veins and that a lot of Spanish traditions are practiced to this day.  

Given a chance, I would like to visit Spain in the future because it does have a lot of interesting things to offer tourists. Filipinos, most especially, would most likely feel an affinity with this foreign country in terms of culture, food, religion, and more. 

The Canary Islands remain to be the most visited part of Spain
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During a recent dinner given by the Spain Tourism Board at the Manila Peninsula, I learned several things that would likely convince tourists to make this charming country their next destination:

1. Spain will host the FIBA World Basketball Championship this 2014. The first ever FIBA Basketball World Cup takes place on August 30 to September 14, 2014. Organizers were said to have chosen Spain for its hospitality and extreme passion about sports.  The host cities and venues are Barcelona (Palau Sant Jordi), Bilbao (Bizcaia Arena), Granada (Palacio Municipal de los Deportes), Gran Canaria (Gran Canaria Arena), Madrid (Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad), and Sevilla (Palacio Municipal de Deportes).

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Smart Gilas Pilipinas fans can choose between the Venue Pass (see all the action in one city), Day Pass (attend all the games in a city on a specific day), or Session Pass (choose only the games that you want to watch).

2. Spain gives tax refunds for travelers. As long as you reside outside the European Union, you can claim back tax on any purchases totaling over 90.15 euros. Just ask for the Tax Free check in the shop or business establishment you've your purchases from. For more information about this, please click here.

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3. Madrid and Barcelona are tied in 2nd place as the best shopping destination in Europe. We were told that both cities hold strong and extensive attractions for shoppers, including excellent cuisine, convenience, and low prices for luxury brand names. Make sure you seek out the El Corte Ingles department store because I heard it is THE haven every shopaholic should go to in Spain.

4. Philippine Food TV Program, "Fork in the Road" explored Spanish Cuisine and will be airing a couple of episodes this February on the Lifestyle Network. Let restaurateur and cookbook author Chef Myrna Segismundo take you on a tour around Barcelona and Madrid as she dove deep into the country's celebrated food culture. This will help you discover and better understand why Spain is known for outstanding cuisine made from the freshest and purest produce and ingredients.

I'm looking forward to having a sneak peek into the cities' best kitchens, cellars, farms, and wineries as well as to Chef Myrna's interviews with members of the Spanish food industry. The trailer we saw also promises a rediscovery of Philippine culinary traditions rooted in Spanish culture. 

Airing dates are as follows:
Feb 16 and 23 9:30PM 
Feb 17 and 24 1:30AM and 6:00PM 
Feb 20 and 27 11PM
Feb 21 and 28 2PM 
Feb 22 and 29 10AM

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5. Spain is the world's 3rd destination in Meetings, Incentives, Congresses, and Exhibitions (MICE). Statistics released by the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) for year 2012 based on the number of international meetings held revealed that Spain comes third worldwide with Madrid and Barcelona ranking 4th and 5th in the Top Cities category. 

If you are an event organizer, look into the country's more than 50 conference centers, located in various places on the coast and inland, in major cities, and also in medium-sized and smaller ones. Spain also have over a thousand 3, 4, and 5 str hotels. Some of its most exciting and innovative conference centers were designed by famous architects such as Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, and Ricardo Bofill.

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6. Here's something for wine lovers: Due to its rich enological tradition, Jerez de la Frontera is chosen as the European Wine City for 2014 at the XVII General Assembly of Recevin held in Marsala, Italy. The Recevin is the European Network of Wine Cities. Jerez mayor Maria Jose Garcia-Pelayo shared that the recognition is a nod to the city's rich and diverse wine culture that could enhance the development of Spain's wine industry and "position ourselves as one of the most prominent" wine producers not only in Europe but to other markets as well. 

2014 coincidentally marks Jerez's 750th anniversary thus making this year a big one for this sherry capital. Visitors will be treated to wine tourism activities via the Jerez Festival from February 21 to March 8; the international sweet and fortified wine fair, Vinoble in May; and the famous horse fair slated on Many 11 to 18.

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6. Spain is home to popular football team FC Barcelona, which will join the World Cup Fever this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There is a strong bet going around that "La Roja" will make it to the final match so the pressure is on for the players to deliver the same level of performance they did in South Africa last year. Tourist Office of Spain encourages fans to book their air tickets to watch the World Cup and transit in either Barcelona or Madrid before heading to Brazil.

Trivia: Tourism is the main economic sector of Spain and accounts for 15.5% of the country's gross domestic product (around 175B euros), employing 14% of the working population. In 2013, Spain registered a total of 60.7M visitors, which is higher than its 47.2M total population. Last year, Spain's tourism revenue reached historic record at 59B euros!

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I find it quite interesting to note that visitors spend an average of 10 days and 9 nights in the country. There must be so much stuff to do there! And did you know, the number of Filipino tourists who travelled to Spain in 2013 reached 48,250!

My itchy feet tell me that if I do get to choose a destination to go to this year, Spain will definitely be one of my top choices. I just need to find enough budget to be able to travel again :)

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