Continuing sustainable growth, personalising the proposal to each traveller and addressing the challenges of today's tourism are the three major challenges facing the group.

In a context in which world economic growth is estimated to remain above 3% for the next few years, and where advanced economies, including Spain, will slow down their growth with rates below 2%, but where the number of tourists will increase by almost 50% in the next decade and where urban tourism continues to grow, the World Heritage Cities Group has a great opportunity ahead, although it requires a certain transformation in the way it approaches the market.

The number of travellers visiting these 15 cities has increased significantly in the period 20142018, with a growth of 10%, although showing a slight depletion in the last year. This figure is still characterised by a significant share of foreigners, which stands at levels of 38% in 2018, albeit decreasing by 5% compared to 2017.

However, the average number of overnight stays per traveller has increased over the last few years, and specifically by 3% compared to 2017, standing at 1.84, which is higher than all other Spanish tourist attractions, and other cities of similar characteristics, as a result of the effort to attract higher quality tourists.

The hotel supply remains practically stable, and thanks to the increase in the average length of stay, the occupancy rate levels have not decreased compared to the previous year, being in the lead in the weekend periods compared to the rest of the cities analysed in Spain.

This occupancy rate could have been higher, had it not been for the continued growth of tourist accommodation, which in the GCPHE is already appearing strongly, especially in some cities, with ratios between 4 and 10 times higher than the hotel supply, and which is a phenomenon that is here to stay, and which requires attention and regulation.

Analysing all the data as a whole, the GCPHE "Sustainability Index" (which relates supply to demand) is at reasonable levels with some room for improvement due to the slowdown in demand.

In this GCPHE 2019 Observatory, additional work has also been carried out on traveller knowledge in the 15 member cities, which identifies Heritage as a fundamental element of attraction with 86%, which needs to be accompanied by a personalised experiential offer for each type of traveller to increase recurrence, estimated at 43%, travellers who state that they would return to the city in 98% of cases, and on whose stay they spend 111 euros per person per day if they stay overnight and 62 euros per person per day if they do not stay overnight.

There are important challenges, not exclusive to GCPHE, but attributable to the current tourism model, such as saturation, security, seasonality, tourist housing or infrastructures, among others, aspects that should be analysed in detail and addressed by all industry players together with the corresponding public institutions, with a view to improving a sustainable tourism model.

In view of the results, the main conclusions of the study are as follows:

  • Improving the quality of the type of traveller and therefore their stay and expenditure at the destination.
  • A slowdown in the growth of travellers, including the share of foreigners, which, in the face of a slight growth in supply (especially unregulated), may pose an additional challenge in the future.
  • It is essential to exploit the available data in an intelligent way to achieve a better understanding of the traveller and, consequently, to personalise the offer to the tourist, and to continue to increase recurrence and spending at the destination.
  • The challenges that arise are not unique to GCPHE but to tourism as a whole, and must be addressed without delay in a segmented manner in order to identify optimal solutions to overcome the barriers encountered.
  • Faced with the foreseeable economic slowdown and increased competition from other markets, the Group must expand its offer with elements in addition to heritage and culture, aspects that a new type of traveller is looking for and taking into account when selecting a destination.
  • Coordination between local actors and between the private and public sector is no longer a recommendation but an obligation with the goal of building a sustainable tourism model, in line with the objectives of the Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism.

In short, in order to continue improving results, it seems advisable to continue progressing with plans that are not short term, but medium and long term, returning the benefits to local society, in a group where most cities have tourism as one of the backbones of their economic activity.

And only with a brand of the power of GCPHE and the UNESCO seal, and the synergies that belonging to the Group means for the cities of the Group, and hand in hand with Turespaña, will it be able to successfully tackle the challenges that lie ahead and take advantage of the magnificent opportunity that appears on the horizon.