Yesterday’s visit to Ronda by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha, along with several of her family and friends is already being considered one of the most important events of the year, with expected tourism benefits for many years.
Aside from her short stay in the city which attracted thousands of observers (see our article, Michelle Obama Visits Ronda), most of Spain’s national press, and decent number of international press were also in attendance, and by the time Mrs Obama had left Ronda the Associated Press story was being syndicated worldwide.
Reporters from CNN, Reuters, and Associated Press were all in Ronda covering the historic visit, and their commentary made syndication to CBS, ABC News, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, Washington Post, LA Times, Sydney Morning Herald, USA Today, India Times, and many more.
This begs the obvious question, with this much exposure, what can Ronda expect from the visit. Is this a one off visit that will quickly be forgotten, or instead does the First Lady’s visit herald a sign of great things for Ronda and the tourism industry which has suffered through the economic crisis as much as every other industry?
Of one thing we can be certain, the mere rumour of Michelle Obama being in Ronda encouraged visitors to descend on the city in droves, and many of them will have taken photographs and when they return home will be telling all of their family and friends how they came ‘this close’ to meeting Mrs Obama.
For people who aren’t familiar with Ronda the association of Ronda and Mrs Obama will stick in their minds, and when planning their next European vacation we can expect a fair few people to ask the question, where did Michelle Obama go? We know this will be the case if we only consider the increase in tourism Ronda experienced since the visit of Jamie Oliver to the Serranía.
Michelle Obama is a much better known celebrity than Jamie Oliver, particularly in the United States where presidential families are considered the equivalent of royalty. We can imagine American tour companies offering five day excursions to the Costa del Sol with the obligatory visit to Ronda and probably to Del Escudero or Tragabuches for lunch.
But in the wider context, Mrs Obama was overheard saying that Ronda “is magnificent” and that she would love to spend a few days enjoying our city. Publicity like that cannot be ignored, and certainly is foremost in the mind of Ronda’s Councillor for Tourism, Francisco Cañestro, who spoke exclusively to Ronda Today.
“From a promotional point of view, her visit has been a success for Ronda, we have been home to all of the world’s media, the importance of which is unquantifiable. I’m sure this visit will result in a significant surge of visits and will establish Ronda as a quality tourist destination.”
Ronda Today agrees, and would encourage our hoteliers and restauranteurs to re-evaluate their service standards, insist their staff smile more, and if possible, encourage staff to learn a few words of English and other major languages. Michelle Obama’s visit and recommendation will see Ronda ride the crest of a wave of tourists with money to spend for at least as long as the Obamas are in the White House.
The Real Maestranza de Ronda and the family that own Del Escudero are already planning their marketing campaigns to get maximum exposure from the Obama visit, and Cañestro is no doubt going to instruct the Tourism Board in Ronda to come up with some publicity as well.
And enterprising hotel owners such as Di Beach of Los Castaños in Cartajima have already written a tongue-in-cheek article on her business blog stating that Mrs Obama passed Cartajima but probably didn’t even see the paradise that is the Genal Valley. It will be interesting to see how other business people in the Serranía react to the boom that could follow from international visitors discovering Ronda for the first time.