Thursday, June 27, 2013


There is a new website portal for travellers to Spain. It is sort of new. has been relaunched. And relaunched with some fanfare as well as some anxiety.

The new, improved, an all-Spain travel information system that falls under the national tourism promotion agency Turespaña, is going to be all-singing, all-dancing. Possibly. It isn't exactly all-singing or all-dancing just at present, despite the fanfare of its relaunch that might have suggested it would be.

The revamped system works but only after a fashion. I have put it to a few simple tests, using the "international English" version of the site. The first test was to find accommodation. Now, where does one find this? It isn't listed on the main banner menu. It must be under "What are you looking for?". No, not there. "Practical information"? Yes, there it is. How silly of me to think that it would have been listed under the more obvious heading.

By default, having clicked on "Accommodation", a search for "Hotels" comes up. There is a downwards arrow with the Hotels banner to suggest you can look for other types of accommodation. It doesn't work. Not to worry, there are five other types listed below and they have upwards arrows. How about flats? Yep, that works. So, let's find Mallorca. Enter. And what do you get? Seven pages of rental agencies and estate agents in places other than Mallorca.

Not to worry, let's try Hotels anyway. Mallorca. Enter. What do you get? Page upon page upon page, starting not with Mallorca but with Almeria. I didn't bother to wade through the numerous pages to discover if there were indeed any hotels for Mallorca.

What about transport? There's a specific "Book your trip" thing on the home pages. Flights or trains. Let's go for flights. Origin: let's use London Luton. Destination: Palma de Mallorca. Enter. What do we get? Another portal. Skyscanner. In Spanish, not English. It wants the origin and destination information again, as it seems not to have registered this. Enter. Ah, four flights. Easyjet. As I might have expected.

These few and simple tests were not wholly satisfactory, though of course one of them wouldn't be expected to throw up any information. Flats. Mallorca. If there were any information, it would be very odd and it would also be very illegal, according to the Balearics Government at any rate. Moreover, it may well become very illegal in other parts of Spain (if it isn't already), now that the Tenancy Act has shifted responsibility to regional governments to enact legislation that may (or may not) be along the same lines as that in the Balearics. Even if these other regional governments don't have the same attitude, the very presence of "Flats" on what is a Spanish Government website is odd in itself. This is a Spanish Government which, as with the Balearics Government, wants to stamp out the so-called illegal offer, and that, by and large, means flats. Maybe someone will point this anomaly out to Segittur, the governmental organisation which specialises in tourism technologies and which has been responsible for overhauling

The fanfare for the relaunch, with national tourism minister José Manuel Soria blowing the loudest trumpet, included reference to grand features such as being able to compare prices for flights, which is all fine and dandy, but isn't it a bit late? Google Flights and others are already doing this. So, the finder is useful but not exactly innovative, while it isn't actually its finder system anyway; it's Skyscanner's. 

The upgraded website has caused anxieties amongst Spain's travel agents, who were under the impression that users would be able to book direct and so miss them out. This isn't the case, so the travel agents can breathe more easily. But to what extent the portal will create additional business for them may be questionable.

Much will depend on how easy users find the system, and the initial impression is that it isn't as easy as it might be. Perhaps there are teething troubles, though it looks more like the website has been put up without having been finished. If it has been, then no one's going to be booking any hotels in Mallorca.

More than this, though, is whether users actually think to go to a site for Spain if they want to go to Mallorca (or any other part of Spain). Put another way, do travellers think "Spain" rather than individual parts of the country? Rather like the "Marca España" is now a questionable concept, so a whole-country internet travel portal is also questionable. 

Any comments to please.

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