Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Still Needing Spain?: Catalonia's tourism

The logo that appears with the "I Need Spain" slogan and which is the image used by the national Turespaña agency to promote Spain's tourism was created in 1983 by Joan Miró. Known as the "Sol de Miró", below the logo there is a form of typography that spells out "España". The whole thing, logo and typography, is very distinct and very recognisable.

What one notices about the "España" is, for example, that the final "a" looks almost like a chair with its left leg slightly raised and the right leg given a base topped with green that protrudes at a 90 degree angle. The yellow and red colours contained in "España" mirror those of the Miró sun; otherwise, and apart from the black lettering, this green at the foot of the "a" is the only other colour. The style is unmistakable and so also are the colours; they are very typically Miró.

Joan Miró was born in Barcelona. The logo was one of his final creations before he died at the end of 1983. But, thirty years on, the logo has been given some new life, and this new life has emanated from Barcelona. There is another logo. Or what might be taken to be a logo. It is for "Catalunya". Its style is, to say the least, highly reminiscent of the "España" typography. The final "a" doesn't have a base that protrudes as far and it also isn't topped with green, but in other respects, including the red inside the "a", it is the same.

At the recent Fitur travel fair in Madrid, a magazine was presented which promotes Catalonia's tourism. On its cover was this very Miró-looking "Catalunya". The website "El Confidencial" has drawn attention to this magazine, though not, it must be said, to the similarities with the "España" (I'm the one doing this). In three languages - Catalan, Castellano and English - it is what the magazine says which has been highlighted. "Welcome. Catalonia, a European country that is open to the world, dynamic and enterprising, rich in history and culture, with a vast diversity of landscapes." You will note that there is something assertive about this welcome. Catalonia is a country. Not part of another country, but a country in its own right.

Just what Turespaña make of the typography, heaven only knows. If it is only an imitation for the cover of a magazine, then they'll probably let it go, but if it were more than this, then it is almost certainly a case of passing-off. It is too similar not to be. But in imitating the "España", the "Catalunya" is like a red rag to the Spanish bull, enraged even more by the fact that it is against text which claims that Catalonia is a European country. At present, Catalonia is not a European country, and indeed it may still not be come this time next year.

What will doubtless enrage further is what is in this magazine. Aimed at both tourists and investors, there is a brief history of Catalonia and reminder of the "loss of liberties" in 1714 (the Nueva Planta, proscription of Catalan and Catalonian institutions, King Philip V, end of the War of the Spanish Succession and establishment of the Bourbon dynasty and all that). As an exercise in pre-emptory propaganda ahead of the independence referendum (assuming it goes ahead), the department of the presidency in Catalonia, which was responsible for the publication, has made a bid to already establish Catalonia as a separate entity and as a separate tourism destination.

Whatever happens with the referendum, Catalonia is forging ahead in developing its tourism promotional activities. Helped with the additional revenue from its tourist tax, it has more money to spend directly on promotion, but it is also beefing up its global presence. A new tourism promotion office has been opened in Sao Paulo in Brazil to add to other ones which have been opened in China, south-east Asia, North America and elsewhere in Latin America. Catalonia's minister for business and employment, Felip Puig, said at the Fitur fair that while Catalonia will continue to work with the "Marca España", which in tourism terms is the "I Need Spain" campaign, there will also be a specific and separate promotional strategy. The groundwork, where tourism for an independent Catalonia is concerned, has already been prepared.

But while Catalonia may be acting as though it were already independent and be preparing for a tourism strategy that is divorced from Turespaña, it may also find, as with other aspects of independence, that things get complicated. An example of this is the Barcelona (BCN) World development of casinos and what have you by PortAventura. It is a project that Catalonia will want to ensure goes ahead, but if there is the prospect of Catalonia being outside the European Union and if the Catalonian government doesn't drastically reduce its gaming tax, then it won't go ahead.

Borrowing typography via Miró from Turespaña may be a propaganda ploy, but Catalonia may yet discover that it still needs Spain. For tourism and for everything else.

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