According to José Manuel Soria, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, tourism is one of the engines of economic recovery in Spain. Figures produced by his department show that the tourism sector contributed 11% to GDP, 12% to employment and 25% to new jobs in the last 12 months. It also offset the trade deficit by 256%.
The figures come off the back of an excellent summer for the Iberian country, which enjoyed a 6% rise in foreign visitor numbers. Overall this year a total of 68 million people are expected to visit Spain.
In recent years, one strand of Spanish tourism that has exploded in popularity is that relating to the popular Game of Thrones television series. For those who have been living in a cave, Game of Thrones charts the rise and fall of the six great families of Westeros. With a fast-paced plot, incredible intrigue and some real gems of characters, as well as more than its fair share of sex and violence, the show has achieved huge success on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the UK, the show set ratings records when season five was shown on Sky Atlantic, capturing a 6.7% audience share. In the US the season finale was watched by 8.1 million viewers, despite being up against an NBA finals game.
The Game of Thrones HQ is in Northern Ireland, which itself has seen huge interest from fans around the world wishing to visit key filming locations. Other countries where filming has taken place have also benefitted. Roxie DeAngelis, who recently travelled from the US to Ireland for a holiday, was delighted to be able to join a tour that allowed her to stand on the TV show’s famous King’s Road. She comments,
“I really wanted to visit the sets and locations when I was in Ireland recently. I didn’t think I would be able to this time around because I didn’t plan on traveling to Northern Ireland where most of Game of Thrones’ filming takes place. But I was able to squeeze in a couple of extra days of touring and as luck would have it, we stopped at a place called the Dark Hedges, which doubled for the King’s Road. The site is otherworldly and beautiful, so it’s no wonder the show’s location scouts chose it.
“Being there was a thrill and I even posed for a photo and hash tagged “what would Jon Snow do?!” Totally cheesy, but since a love of Game of Thrones is shared worldwide, you can travel to these places with fellow tourists and revel in your goofy enjoyment as a team. It’s a bonding experience for folks from all walks of life.”
Other countries to host Game of Thrones filming include Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, Malta, Scotland, the United States and Spain. In Spain, the city of Seville and neighbouring Osuna have seen hordes of tourists descend to pay homage to their on-screen heroes and villains since season five was filmed in several locations there. Local tour companies have maximised their potential by offering themed Game of Thrones tours, just as they have in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
Now, with season six filming well underway, Game of Thrones fever has gripped Spain once more. Filming has so far included Girona, Navarra and the seaside location of Peñiscola, with thousands of fans queuing up in response to advertisements for extras in each location. Spaniards, it seems, are just as keen to be part of George RR Martin’s epic fantasy world as viewers from the UK and US.
In October, the film crews are heading over to the stunning Costa Almeria region, where work has been undertaken to prepare scenery in areas such as El Chorrilo de Sierra Alhamilla (Pechina), where the construction of a settlement featuring huts around a church was rumoured to be have taken place.
With filming for season six well underway, the impact on Costa Almeria filming locations is hotly anticipated. Martin Dell, Director of Spanish property portal Kyero.com, which lists more than 200,000 homes from 3,000 estate agents, including a range of holiday rentals in Costa Almeria, comments,
“We’ve seen a huge boost in tourism as a result of the filming of Game of Thrones in other areas of Spain, as well as in its headquarters in Northern Ireland. Fans love to be able to visit the areas that they’ve seen form part of the series and chosen locations definitely benefit.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see rental prices rising along the Costa Almeria once season six airs and it is subject to the Game of Thrones effect. Filming locations are getting wiser about how they can make the most of their new-found fame and as each season airs we are seeing a more sophisticated tourism offering to fans.”
The Carboneras municipal stadium, according to Almeria City Council, will host the film crew and the 400 extras who will be used as part of the filming on October 18 and 19in the Paraje de Mesa Roldan in the Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar. Other local sites tipped to be included in the smash hitshow are the Rambla del Cautivo, the Almeria Citadel and the Chorrillo de Pechina, where extras will include more than 100 Almeria-born horses, as well as the hundreds of locals keen to be a part of the epic series.
According to data from Kyero.com, average holiday rental prices in the Costa Almeria are currently €643 per week, with apartments accounting for two thirds of all rentals. The most popular locations are Mojacar, Vera and Arboleas. The area is most popular with holidaymakers from the UK, France and Germany, though it also has double the usual proportion of visitors from Belgium and Sweden. It will be interesting to see just how the huge impact of Game of Thrones will affect these statistics over the coming year, as the excitement regarding the latest season builds.
For further details on properties to rent and buy across Spain, visit www.kyero.com.
Pandemic risks eclipse treasury priorities as businesses diversify investments to mitigate impact
The Covid-19 pandemic has shunted aside existing challenges to sit atop treasurers’ priority lists, according to “The resilient treasury: Optimising strategy in the face of covid-19”, a survey run by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
The results show that treasurers are looking to diversify their investments in a bid to mitigate the pandemic impacts, including heightened liquidity, foreign-exchange and interest-rate risk. As many as 55% plan to increase investments in long-term instruments, with 48% increasing investments in bank deposits, another 48% in local investment products, and 47% in money-market funds.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically altered business plans in 2020. It has placed a certain level of strain on treasury processes, but the challenge it presents has been managed by traditional treasury skills. It is clear that pandemic risk will be on the treasury checklist for years to come, but it is one of many risks the department faces and will continue to manage,” says Melanie Noronha, the EIU editor of the report.
Despite Covid-19 looming large, other challenges wait in the wings. Notably, the replacement of the London Interbank Offered Rate was identified by 38% of respondents as the main challenge of their function.
Technology, meanwhile, continues to be a pressing issue, with treasury teams becoming increasingly reliant on IT solutions. Here, data quality is rising up the list of concerns. Already highlighted as very or somewhat concerning in 2019 by 69% of respondents, the figure rose to 78% in 2020. Acquiring the necessary skill sets to realise the full benefits of this data and technology is also a continuing priority – with some progress registered from last year. In 2020, 30% of respondents say they have all the skills they need to manage technological change, up from 22% in 2018.
“Treasury’s focus on technology is not only helping teams operate more efficiently in a remote-working environment, it has long played – and continues to play – a key role in realising their long-term priorities,” notes Ole Matthiessen, Head of Cash Management, Corporate Bank, Deutsche Bank. The survey shows that
Release 1 | 2 managing relationships with banks and suppliers (highlighted by 32% of respondents) and collaborating with other functions of the business (also 32%) remain top of the agenda – and seamless digital systems will help give treasurers the bandwidth and insight to be more effective partners for both internal and external stakeholders.
Based on a global survey of 300 treasury executives, conducted between April and May, the survey explores stakeholders’ attitudes among corporate treasurers towards the drivers of strategic change in the treasury function – from the pandemic through to regulation and technology – and their priorities for the next five years.
Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance
By Ryan Lester, Senior Director of Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn
With heightened economic uncertainty and increased customer expectation becoming the norm in the banking industry, it is understandable that the sector is struggling to keep afloat. Due to its precarious nature, banking institutions are trying their best to ensure they remain relevant in the competitive landscape and guarantee that their customers continue to be a priority.
When it comes to the first half of this year, the pandemic has shown how easy it is for industries to fail. Customers and companies alike had to get used to the new normal, as physical locations started to close. The banking industry felt this first hand, as banks were made to restructure how their business ran, with restricted opening hours and a wider push to motivate people to use online banking.
While some had already embraced digital options prior to the pandemic, this proved to be a stark contrast to the elderly population, who frequently visited branches to access their finances. Moving forward, banks have to adopt new methods to ensure customers get the most out of our their accounts, without their experience suffering.
Heightened Customer Expectations
When the pandemic reached its peak, people were encouraged to use online banking, as telephone contact was under strain with long waiting times and pressure mounting on contact centre agents. According to Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), which works with 50 of the world’s largest banks, there was a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations in early April, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%.
With branches remaining closed, customers were continuously being urged to limit the amount of calls they made to the most urgent cases and consider whether they could solve their answers through mobile online banking or checking the company website. Although already being adopted in pockets of the industry, this was a real catalyst that spurred banks to up their game on digital channels and with self-service tools.
Banks are challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. With the demographic of customers changing over the last few years, customers are becoming increasingly younger and more comfortable with technology. Influenced by the “Amazon Effect”, their expectations have raised to an all-time high, placing record strain on the sector
Customer experience isn’t just about support anymore, it’s about serving your customer at every point in the journey. Companies have an opportunity to elevate the experience they provide by moving beyond one-and-done interactions to create continuous engagements with their customers. It is starting to become a primary competitive differentiator in the market and one that doesn’t have a lot of variation. Deploying AI chatbot technology will be able to strategically help banks improve customer experience and raise the level of support that agents provide.
Digital collaboration: Working around the Clock
The benefits of adopting digital channels and self-service tools are second to none. By implementing chatbots, fuelled by conversational AI, banks will be able to help serve a wide range of customer queries and ensure they are protected from fraud and scams.
Conversational AI is exactly what it sounds like: a computer programme that engages in a conversation with a human. When it comes to service delivery, conversational AI can be deployed across multiple channels to engage with customers in ways that effectively address evolving customer needs. At a time defined by COVID-19, self-service tools such a conversational chatbots can work around the clock to solve customer queries in a concise and timely way. Of course, self-service tools won’t completely replace human agents in the banking industry, but they will help companies re-distribute customer traffic and workflows in ways that enhance customer experience. Self-service tools fuelled by conversational AI can also improve employee experience because service employees can handle fewer, but higher-level service tasks that chatbots might escalate to them.
Adopting new tools to help facilitate consistent and concise answers and help maintain customer experience is on the forefront of many industry minds. Banks such as the Natwest Group have seen this first-hand and are testament to the benefits that a good digital experience can provide. Simon Johnson, Capability Consultant, Digital at NatWest Group highlights NatWest’s use of digital tools during lockdown, “Over the last few months, we’ve learnt how to use digital tools to help our employees remotely. From a banking perspective, there have been a lot of changes including base rates, waive fees and the best ways of contacting our vulnerable customers, ensuring we keep them protected from frauds and scams.
“By introducing our Bold360 chatbot interface, Ella, we’ve been able to get relevant information out quickly, apply the best practice and ensure that our customer journeys are being developed correctly. Due to the volume of questions, some of our customers were finding themselves waiting longer than usual. So digital channels become essential to helping reduce the wait time. Using Bold360, we were able to mitigate issues and answer questions in a more timely way through our chatbot.
“Moving forward, as we open more digital services, we are analysing our data to see if customer will return back to their usual way of banking, now that they’ve seen what a good digital experience can provide. Either way, with Ella, we are ready.”
Chatbots and Humans: The Best Option for Customer Service
Over the last year, banking institutions have recognised the power that digital collaboration can have to their success. Delivering exceptional customer service and support is key for any business wanting to stay competitive in today’s market and banks are especially challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. Leveraging the right technology, such as AI-powered chatbots, will enable the banking industry to provide better support and a more robust customer experience in the long term. Other institutions must follow suit, or risk becoming obsolete.
A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US
By Lauren Jones, International Payments Ambassador, Icon Solutions
The US payments industry is undoubtedly ripe for change. Before the unprecedented shock of COVID-19, digitization and payments transformation initiatives had been organic, piecemeal and predominately the preserve of the largest banks.
Now, increasing pressure means that financial institutions of all sizes are working to define a digital strategy to unlock new opportunities, drive business value, and stay competitive. But beyond the immediate impact of COVID, what underlying trends are accelerating digitization in the US?
- Real-time payments – the stimulus for change
Real-time payments have been met with a degree of caution by US financial institutions. Risking traditional profit generators in return for potential revenues down the line is a gamble many have not been willing to take. But immediate payments are coming to the US whether banks like it or not.
Major payments infrastructure providers, including NACHA and The Clearing House (TCH), have moved to encourage immediate payment adoption in recent years. But the Fed, frustrated with a slow rate of progress, has announced that it is pressing ahead with the implementation of its FedNow system (despite significant industry objection). Although the Fed’s true intentions are open to interpretation and this may just be a play to accelerate private initiatives, it is a clear signal that they mean business.
This means holdouts risk their own ‘Kodak’ moment if they miss the huge opportunities in front of them by fixating on traditional revenue streams. Banks are in a position to support innovation across entire industries such as healthcare, which could be released from the constraints of paper-based bureaucracy and slow, expensive transactions.
Another opportunity that can be unlocked via instant payments is ISO 20022 (used in the TCH RTP system). It is the future of payments messaging standards and can greatly enhance various payments processes through increased data-carrying capabilities. More importantly given the current climate, citizens reliant on federal or state support can benefit from RTPs combined with additional data to immediately access emergency funds.
- The kids are growing up
The US is getting older. Consumers who were 10 when the iPhone first launched are now 23. This means we are seeing a ramp-up of digitally native Gen Z consumers (roughly those born between 1995 and 2010) accessing banking services.
Demographics are an inexact science and not perfect predictors (there are technophobe college students and 100-year-old Instagram influencers), but we can detect noticeable trends.
Younger customers don’t usually choose a bank because there is an ATM in their neighbourhood, a slightly better interest rate or an advert in the newspaper. Rather, a strong digital presence, personalised tools, rewards and experiences, and the trusted recommendations of friends and family, will have a more significant impact on customer acquisition.
Banks must look at the effect this will have on their longer-term digitalization strategy and be able to segment what this emerging customer base might want and how they will interact in years to come.
- Checkmate? Evolving corporate requirements
Corporate treasurers are people and their experience of seamless, immediate payments in their personal lives shapes expectations in the workplace. Although check usage for business-to-business (B2B) transactions is still the norm in the US and barriers remain, corporates are increasingly demanding the ability to transact in a real-time, omnichannel environment, 24×7.
The benefits are clear. Corporate treasurers stand to enjoy enhanced liquidity management and transparency, greater control over payments and enhanced data for reconciliation purposes. And for consumers, alternative digital payment options such as buy now pay later promote choice and flexibility.
- Increasing competition
A significant consequence of emerging consumer and business demand for digital offerings is the increase in competition from fintechs, technology giants and other third-parties. Traditionally, incumbent banks have enjoyed the advantage of consumer trust to offset more limited innovation. But as consumers become more comfortable entrusting their financial transactions to non-banks, banks must differentiate and digitize to remain competitive.
Data is where the technology giants excel, and their ability to personalise experiences and emotionally connect with their users is unprecedented. Banks need to learn from the positive aspects of this model to better understand their users and deliver meaningful, useful products and services.
For data to become the cornerstone of a banks’ customer relationship and take services to the next level, breaking the channel silos and extracting value from a comprehensive dataset will be decisive. But with only 18% of banks reporting that they are in the process of shifting from a transactional revenue model to a data-driven revenue model, this work has some way to go.
Taking customer propositions to the next level
Customers now expect services that work for them, not their banks. All banks, no matter the footprint, need to move quickly to offer a broad digital service platform that adds value to both the customer and the bank.
By defining a robust payments transformation strategy, banks of all sizes can remain fiercely competitive by rapidly lowering costs, unlocking revenues and promoting innovation
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