Today and tomorrow, Fairway will become a debating forum on the circular economy and the model of sustainable tourism. The 5th Forum of the Camino de Santiago began this morning two days of professional sessions featuring the Congress and Academy sections, with an opening conference under the theme Circular Economy and Sustainability.
It featured the participation of the director of the Galician Tourism Agency, Xosé Manuel Merelles; A Coruña Provincial Council’s Camino representative, Antonio Leira, and Santiago’s Tourism councillor, Miriam Louzao. The session was moderated by Tono Mugico, one of Fairway’s co-directors, who made a brief introduction about the importance of the event focussing on this year’s theme of the Circular Economy, and how this is reflected in the different activities that will take place today and tomorrow in the Pazo de Congresos y Exposiciones de Galicia.
In her presentation, Miriam Louzao thanked the organisation for its work promoting “a space in which to reflect on and share ideas,” while also highlighting the Town Council’s commitment to the “transformation of Compostela’s tourist model,” in which “the circular economy and sustainability are two key elements.”
To that end, our efforts must be centred on attaining “quality tourism with added value. We want our visitors to bring some time in their backpacks, with a desire to know more about us, to explore our city. We are not just the destination of the Camino. We are also history, a language, a culture. We are cuisine, craftwork, nature, we are a World Heritage City,” declared the councillor. Louzao finished by calling for collaboration from all administrations and companies linked to the Camino de Santiago to work together in favour of a “responsible tourist policy, which looks to the mid and long term, and takes care of our historical, cultural, and heritage legacy.”
For his part, A Coruña Provincial Council’s Camino representative, Antonio Leira, highlighted the development opportunity provided by the Camino routes for the municipal districts that they pass through. In this regard, he cited the example of the English Way and the Fisterra-Muxía route, whose entire length runs through the province of A Coruña.
“The Camino is a source of income and improvement for town councils, while also helping to stem the loss of rural population. The increasing influx of pilgrims moving through these areas generates dynamic economic activity thanks to rural tourism, which makes the most of the available natural and cultural resources. Therefore, its role in economic development is of vital importance”, he claimed.
Finally, the director de Galicia Tourism highlighted the work that the Xunta de Galicia is carrying out to guarantee the sustainable management of the Camino, with more than 66 million euros set aside for this up until the next Holy Year in 2027. This will enable us, he said, “to protect the essence of the Camino route, which is becoming less and less seasonal, to adapt to the new pilgrimage tendencies, and to maintain the levels of hospitality shown by Galicians.”
In this regard, Merelles shared data from the Residents Survey, carried out annually since 2020 in Galicia Tourism’s area of Studies and Research to analyse how Galicians perceive tourist activities and their impacts. The data reflects a very positive opinion overall in Galicia, since 90% of Galicians view the presence of tourists in their municipal district as positive or very positive, a percentage that has hardly varied since 2021. “If we continue to promote a diversified Camino de Santiago, which is less seasonal and more sustainable, we will be able to maintain the harmony between residents and tourists,” he concluded.
A tourism model based on mutual respect
The debate on the tourist model continued in the debating forum entitled Residents and tourists, forced to get along. Moderated by the director Onda Cero Galicia, Ignacio Capeáns, the session featured the participation of Xosé Regueira, vice-president of A Coruña Provincial Council; Flavia Ramil, managing director of Santiago Tourism; Miguel Pérez, president of the French Way Federation Pepe Formoso, president of APTCM; Aurea Domínguez and Lanzada Calatayud, president and technical assistance of the Association of Camino Fisterra-Muxía Town Councils, respectively, and Montserrat Villar, president of the District of San Pedro’s “A Reunión” Residents Association.
First of all, Villar raised the problems derived from the high influx of visitors, who interfere in neighbourhood life. Taking this idea as a starting point, both Miguel Pérez and Pepe Formoso expressed their disappointment at the “blaming of pilgrims” for the situation put forward by the neighbourhood representative. In this regard, they highlighted the “capacity of the Camino for making Galicia a universal destination.”
For their part, Domínguez and Calatayud defended the importance of promoting responsible tourist models to enable residents and visitors to coexist. And going a step further, Ramil highlighted the interest in quality visitors such as, for example, the Japanese, who come to Compostela with a great desire for discovering its culture and heritage.
Finally, Regueira expressed his concern because “a sector that accounts for 14% of Galicia’s GDP and which promotes economic growth should receive so much criticism.” In order to harmonise the interests of both tourists and neighbours, he appealed to the role of administrations as mediators. He therefore proposed measures such as presenting society with a positive view that includes the advantages provided by the tourist sector, while also striving to attain a less invasive type of tourist that can coexist with the local population.
In the Fairway Congress’ afternoon session, other measures were featured such as whether to introduce a tourist tax or not. This debating forum, moderated by the journalist Ramón Castro, featured the participation of the president of the Galician Tourism Cluster, Cesáreo Pardal; the president of the Compostela Hotel Union, Luisa Lorenzo; Santiago Tourism’s Communication expert, Jorge Carregal, and the tourist promotion manager of Tourism Porto North, Marcos Sousa.
Latest tendencies in digital marketing
At the same time, the Palacio de Congresos’ Sala Compostela hosted the Academy section’s activities. The first was a workshop on search engine positioning, by Iñaki Tovar, CIELO of Webpositer, who had to participate remotely since he was unable to fly to Santiago.
Next, Andrés Romero, CIELO of Asiri Marketing, moderated a round table discussing the creation of content for blogs and social medial. It also featured the participation of the blogger Eva Abal, and the photographer and Instagrammer Oliver Vegas, along with the online presence of a social medial expert, Phil González.
In the afternoon, there was a workshop on artificial intelligence tools by Jairo Rodríguez, Customer Engineer, Google Cloud at Google. The Academy’s first day ended with a round table on Digital Nomads. In this case, the featured projects were those of Daniel Gómez (Node Nomads); Lili Lorenzo (Acto Voltaje); Carlos Jonay (Pueblos Remotos) and Sergio Cazcarra (Growth Coliving).
First day of business meetings
The activity in the Palacio de Congresos was also very intensive throughout the entire day with the start of the Workshop. This section will facilitate 4,150 business meetings between 40 tour operators from 16 countries and more than 100 local companies linked to the Caminos routes.
There were also several presentations in the lobby throughout the day, such as those of the Joint Community of Galician Town Councils of the French Way and a documentary by Flagler Films.
Last day of Fairway
The Fairway programme will continue tomorrow with more Academy sessions, featuring workshops on WhatsApp Marketing and instant communication, and using Tik Tok as a tool for generating bookings in tourist accommodations, and a round table on the Circular Economy, presenting different examples of businesses and projects based on this philosophy. For its part, the Congress will present a round table on Caminos and Pilgrimages Routes around the world, with the examples of Malta, Japan, and Ireland. This section will end with a debating forum on Managing health and safety along the Camino de Santiago, featuring the participation of institutional and business representatives. For more information about the programme, see www.fairwaysantiago.com.