In the last week two significant tourism lists of popular destinations have been published, the TripAdvisor Best of Spain, and Nebrija Tourism Experience Awards, with Ronda appearing in both lists, though interestingly, at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Nebrija Tourism Experience Awards honour Spanish cities or destinations that promote responsible and sustainable development, and are organised by professor Antonio de Nebrija of Madrid University, who is internationally renowned as a tourism expert and researcher. In the 2010 awards, Ronda narrowly missed out to Menorca for the top spot along with Torres de l’Ebre.
Contrast that with the TripAdvisor Best of Spain list that uses member data to determine the most popular and most appealing destinations from around Spain as chosen by travellers. The top 25 destinations in Spain include Ronda, however the city polled a dismal 25th spot, or in other words, was considered by TripAdvisor members to be the worst of the top 25 destinations.
The Alcalde of Ronda Antonio Marín Lara, who is also Councillor for Tourism following the resignation of Maribel Morales two weeks ago, described Ronda as a “clean and safe” destination and was at pains to stress Ronda is the third most visited destination in Andalucía after Sevilla and Granada, a statistic supported by the Junta’s Tourism Agency, Andalucía.org
The Nebrija Experience Awards are primarily a Spanish speaking award, whilst TripAdvisor attracts more international visitors to Spain, leading to the obvious conclusion that Spaniards really like Ronda, whereas international visitors prefer other destinations.
Ronda Today obviously disagrees with the TripAdvisor results, although it highlights a key failing of Tourism operators in the Serranía de Ronda; simply not enough is being done to attract people to Ronda and to inform them of what they can do when they visit.
In discussions with several local hotels, a recurring comment is that the owners do not know what it is that the three main tourism offices in the Serranía actually do. CIT (Turismo Rural), under the management of Alfredo Carrasco is exceptionally active in securing funding to promote the Serranía around the world, but most hoteliers are unaware of this.
Ronda Today can be reasonably certain CIT’s activities and their support for private tour operators such as Pangea Active Nature and Spanish Nature Tours with Wildside Holidays – Grazalema is most likely the reason Ronda was second runner up in the Nebrija Experience Awards.
TripAdvisor’s Best of Spain list though is purely and simply a numbers game, the results are less likely to be researched, and more likely to represent brute numbers of people who visit, with some formula used to factor in the review scores given for hotels and activities. Significantly, the TripAdvisor page for Ronda is mostly given over to describing the Pente Nuevo, the Plaza de Toros, museums etc.
So where does Ronda really sit between these two lists? It is true Ronda is the third most visited city in Andalucía, but the overwhelming majority of visitors arrive by coach from the coast and spend a few hours seeing the gorge and Casgo Antiguo, then return to the coast in time for dinner. Their monetary value to Ronda is minimal, whilst people who stay a few days are more given to having researched the city beforehand, possibly using websites such as TripAdvisor.
We can be appreciative that TripAdvisor and similar sites are doing their bit to promote Ronda, yet me must be asking why these visitors are not giving Ronda a high enough review. Who is responsible for the poor showing of Ronda in the Best of Spain list? Is it the hotels for not doing enough to make their guests feel welcome in Ronda, or is it the tourism authorites for not doing enough to attract visitors in the first place?
Needless to say neither side will claim any responsibility. Hotel owners claim their role is to make the guest welcome when they are in the city, the implication being they believe the Ayuntamiento and tourism offices are responsible for ensuring guests enjoy their stay outside of the hotel. We can’t help but agree with some of the hotel owners, a glaring example of the woeful efforts of the Ayuntamiento is the new Turismo de Ronda website, the English translation of which really looks like it was done using Google Translate.