Already hugely popular among tourists for its stunning coastal resorts, Murcia is now also focusing special attention on the region’s enchanting inland areas. This focus is especially relevant in the coronavirus era as an increasing number of travellers seek bucolic destinations away from the main population centres, and is also in tune with the 2020 World Tourism Day theme of “Tourism and Rural Development”.
Coinciding with this year’s UNWTO celebration, the regional ministry of tourism shone a spotlight on its hinterland villages and mountain ranges, noting that the number of bookings in these areas had increased in recent months as visitors sought “safe” destinations.
The ministry has devised a programme of activities comprising more than 20 travel experiences and guided tours in municipalities throughout the Murcia region, and is running a raffle for 10 weekend getaways (for two people) – with entries open until 11.59pm on 27 September.
Other initiatives by the ministry include a sustainability plan to promote eco-tourism in one of the region’s pictureseque inland mountain areas, Sierra Espuña.
According to minister for tourism, youth and sport Cristina Sánchez, the main aim is to promote Sierra Espuña as “a top-quality and sustainable destination from a social, economic and environmental point of view”, and to enhance conservation of the area’s natural and cultural resources.
Sierra Espuña Regional Park is located in the heart of the region, comprising a mountainous massif whose natural aspects are mainly calcareous. It rises to 1,500 metres above sea level, and has interesting karst landforms at its summits. Keen hikers can enjoy a network of forest roads and paths that are closed to vehicles.
World Tourism Day
In designating 2020 as the “Year of Tourism and Rural Development”, the UN’s World Tourism Organisation said it wanted to “advance inclusion and highlight the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration”.
In a news release outlining details of the celebration, the UNWTO noted that this year’s international day of observation “comes at a critical moment, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar.
“The 2020 edition also comes as governments look to the sector to drive recovery from the effects of the pandemic and with the enhanced recognition of tourism at the highest United Nations level.
“This was most notably illustrated with the recent release of a landmark policy brief on tourism from UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in which he explained that ‘for rural communities, indigenous peoples and many other historically marginalized populations, tourism has been a vehicle for integration, empowerment and generating income’.”
The Murcia region’s network of tourist offices and information stands became the first in Spain to receive the “Safe Tourism Certified” stamp from the Spanish Tourist Quality Institute (ICTE).