Correfoc in Igualada. Photo by Jordi Bonaventura

Innovation and ruralism grow hand in hand thanks to OnVaig.cat

An online travel agency specialized in tourism of festivals and traditions of Catalonia. Created and coordinated by Laia Andreu, the start-up is something like a "supermarket of Catalan tourist experiences", which allows to decentralize tourism and publicize new destinations and activities throughout the territory

T

he democratization of tourism and the consequent overcrowding of destinations incited by agencies and guides have reinforced the modern need to find tourism alternatives close to the exclusive, relatively new proposals that combine the memory of a beautiful picture with the unforgettable experience.

This combination of landscape and experience is the landmark of OnVaig.cat, an online travel agency specializing in tourism of festivals and traditions of Catalonia. Created and coordinated by Laia Andreu, the start-up is something like a “supermarket of Catalan tourist experiences”, which allows to decentralize tourism and publicize new destinations and activities throughout the territory.

“The ones that catch the eye the most are the Correfoc -in fact, any activity linked to the fire attracts much attention- and the popular Castellers“, explains Laia Andreu.

After winning the FuTurisme Prize in May 2018 -endowed with 12,000 euros- and doubling its turnover in one year, the next challenge for OnVaig.cat is to internationalize the proposal so that foreign tourists come to enjoy Catalan popular festivals. According to the entrepreneur, they are already testing the digital infrastructure and contacts have been made with international agencies, so it only needs to be put into operation.

“Despite the fact that we still do not have clients from other countries, by contacting travel agencies we can already get an idea of ​​the traditions that are mostly celebrated among international tourists: the ones that catch the eye the most are the Correfoc -in fact, any activity linked to the fire attracts much attention- and the popular Castellers“, explains Laia Andreu.

In parallel, Catalan tourists opt for more infrequent plans, and the podium of their preferences is dominated by the Fallas del Pirineo, a festive tradition that is celebrated in several places in the regions of the Pyrenees, consisting on a march through the forest carrying a burning log. After that tradition, the second position in order of preferences for the local tourist is the planting of the rice in the Delta del Ebro.

But, how are these journeys organised? “The getaways for people from Catalonia and the metropolitan area usually consist of one or two nights’ accommodation in rural environments where every detail is taken care of. Normally we integrate one or two activities, and the own activity of the traditional festivity. During the entire weekend the amount invested goes from 75 to 115 euros”, says the entrepreneur.

With this system, the OnVaig.cat platform achieves two praiseworthy purposes at the same time: on the one hand, it diverts tourist traffic from the city to the countryside decongesting urban spaces, usually saturated by the population density itself. On the other hand, it helps to combat the rural depopulation that is being denounced in recent times.

“We understand tourism as a way to boost the local economy, especially in the most rural places. It is a method to dignify the work of farmers and ranchers, since city people understand what is being done in the rural world and realize, for example, why it is important to consume proximity products. Rural tourism gives all these people the opportunity to earn a better living and we believe that this type of housing initiatives helps to develop and repopulate these areas”, says Laia Andreu.

Although she recognizes that at very local festivities there are neighbours who do not understand why tourists arrive -“what is interesting about us?”, they ask themselves- in the end they assume, according to Laia, that the exchange is beneficial for all. The start-up universe and the countryside world share profitability in the confluence developed by OnVaig.cat: “It is true that our suppliers are sometimes traditional people and away from this world of entrepreneurship and start-ups, but we balance both universes and try to understand the two realities so that we all win. The combination maximizes the benefits for both”, concludes Laia Andreu.