David Ramiro |
Sports writing (EFE).- An innovative project in the middle of nature is the new commitment of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, which aims to combine sport and tourism in rural and mountainous areas with the State Network of Permanent Trail Running Facilities.
Through the Trail50 Plan, the RFEA is responding to the increasing demand of mountain runners, who, according to a 2021 report from the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), already have twenty million practitioners, and whose growth after the pandemic it has multiplied exponentially in countries like Spain.
In order to respond to this demand in an organized way, and incidentally combine sports and tourism to promote natural regions and charming towns, the State Network of Permanent Trail Running Facilities arose. This is an initiative of the RFEA and Trail Running Center to help reactivate the so-called ‘Empty Spain’.
As a whole, the Network has 29 centers (15 completed and 14 pending opening this 2023) and more than 100 permanent circuits for trail running. They all have standard signage throughout Spain and combine a great technical and landscape variety: high, medium and low mountains, forests and plains, and marshland, dunes and beaches.
“We want to promote the healthy practice of sports, tourism and gastronomy”, declares Raúl Chapado, president of the RFEA, who assures that the challenge ahead is to “add more centers, until reaching one per province, and build a platform digital network that connects everyone and is promoted nationally and internationally to also attract people from outside Spain”.
The main promoter of the project is Alex Solís, director of the Trail Running Center, who, as he declared to EFE, was clear that “athletics had to leave the asphalt and the stadiums.”
«A few years ago we realized that there are more and more people running on the mountain but the necessary infrastructures could not be found. Now they will find in each center a facility prepared to respond to their demands with parking, ticket offices, changing rooms and services to prepare the route before starting to run.
For these reception centers, existing tourist sites and facilities such as sports centers, multidisciplinary buildings, youth hostels or tourist accommodation are used.
“The promoters, normally public administrations such as town halls or councils, undertake to maintain the centers, and we advise on the type of circuit and take care of technical issues and environmental permits,” Solís declares.
This innovative project has the support of the Higher Sports Council. «We must promote the magnificent environmental conditions in Spain because these trail centers are a tribute to the towns and residents of these municipalities. They are a great legacy for future generations because they are also trying to solve one of the great problems of Spain, the demographic challenge”, declares José Manuel Franco, Secretary of State for Sport.
Sports tourism on the rise
According to the Sports Statistics Yearbook of the Higher Sports Council, Spain received 4.8 million sports tourists in 2021, 27% more than in 2020, but still 61% below the 12.6 million in 2019.
The type of trip was 64% sports practice by 36% of the public to a sporting event and traveler spending amounted to 2.41 million euros, 37% higher than in 2020 but still lower than 67% in 2019. where the sum of practitioners and spectators exceeded 7.35 million euros.
The importance of international tourists is very important in qualitative terms, according to the report presented at the FITUR Sports Summit. In 2021, while 79% of sports tourists were from Spain, in terms of spending, foreign tourists (21%) generated half, 50% of the total. In 2019, 33% of sports tourists were international, generating 68% of total sports tourism spending in Spain.
Promotion of rural tourism
The state network of trail centers seeks to create an interconnected fabric of facilities that allows its promoters to share objectives, initiatives and experiences, and that encourages users to participate in sports forums, technical training, exchanges and specialized sports trips.
For the affiliated promoters, the Network means becoming a reference destination for the practice of non-competitive trail running in Spain, associating the territory with important national brands of tourist destinations in nature and linking the territory to an innovative tourism-sports project in Spain. .
At the moment, the interconnection of the network is uniting important tourist brands such as the Ribeira Sacra, Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Guadarrama or Sierra Morena.
An example of the new trail centers is that of Allepuz, in the Sierra del Maestrazgo de Teruel, a municipality with just over a hundred registered inhabitants.
“The older ones designed old roads and cleared the land with their own hands. Since the layout has been completed, these people meet at sunset to walk along those slopes and that is the spirit of what we want, beyond practicing sports, ”stresses Chapado.
Ismael Gil, mayor of Abrucena, declared that as a result of the creation of the center, a restaurant, a recreational area with a barbecue and a free area for camping and bathroom services will be opened. «What is sought is to promote sports tourism and help the fight against depopulation. In our case, sports, culture and the use of natural resources are combined”.
José María Vijuesca, mayor of Añon de Moncayo, a town with 212 inhabitants in the province of Zaragoza, points out that this project means giving “a degree of quality” to the town, “filling it up on weekends and being able to carry out unique organized tours such as one that climb to the top of Moncayo».
Another representative of this project, Isabel María Bausan, councilor for Linares, a municipality in Jaén with 56,000 inhabitants, confesses that they opted for this trail center to promote the natural mining landscape they have and “link sport with tourism to publicize the area but also the museums or the route of the gastronomic tapas ».
The provinces where the centers are located are A Coruña (Cariño), Lugo (Folgoso do Courel), Pontevedra (Condado Paradanta), Orense (Castro Caldelas), Asturias (Cangas de Onís), León (Villablino), Zamora (Porto de Sanabria), Palencia (Fuentes Carrionas – Palentina Mountain), Cantabria (Ramales de la Victoria), Burgos (Regumiel de la Sierra – Muñalba), Soria (Quintana Redonda), Navarra (Montejurra – Bizi), Zaragoza (Añón de Moncayo), Huesca (Borau-Aragonese Pyrenees), Teruel (Allepuz), Castellón (La Todolella), Valencia (Gandia), Alicante (La Nucía), Madrid (Los Molinos), Cáceres (Jerte Valley), Ciudad Real (Campo de Calatrava) , Córdoba (Villaviciosa de Córdoba-Sierra Morena), Jaén (Linares), Huelva (Aracena), Málaga (Montecorto – Serranía de Ronda), Almería (Abrucena – Sierra Nevada) and the island of La Palma (Reventón-El Paso).