Drive to lure people off the beaches and into the shops. | T. AYUGA

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria has called for a boost in shopping tourism in Spain as a way to end the “bipolarity and seasonal nature” affecting a sector that is “so important for job creation.” Speaking at the first global summit on shopping tourism this week, Saenz de Santamaria stressed the importance of initiatives of this kind to help drive a leading sector like tourism with a renewed view on business activity as a differentiator. Shopping tourism can increase the returns on such an important activity for Spain and extend it to other sectors of the economy, Saenz de Santamaria said.

The deputy prime minister noted the measures taken by the government to restore investor confidence and increase Spain’s attractiveness as a place for investment, stressing that tourism was the leading sector for Spanish exports, with a trade surplus of 20 billion euros as of July.

To promote shopping tourism, the government is working on streamlining the processes for the return of IVA (VAT) to non-EU tourists and implementing a computer-based system to register purchases. Saenz de Santamaria said: “We have to open the riches of tourism to other sectors of the economy to end the bipolarity and seasonal nature posed by alternatives such as the sun and beach”.

The World Tourism Organization secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, noted that the presence of Saenz de Santamaria at the tourism and shopping summit sent “an important message” because it showed that they were priority sectors for Spain.