01/09/2002 The expectations raised by the restoration work and archaeological excavations currently being carried out on Vitoria-Gasteiz´s Santa María Cathedral have been more than justified, with the halfway mark for the total number of estimated visitors for the Third Programme of Guided Tours being reached this summer. In the four months since the new programme was introduced, over 23,000 people have visited the gothic cathedral - a figure well over estimated targets. The number of visitors has increased significantly with respect to last year, during which 28,573 visits were recorded over a seven-month period.
The attractions of this series of Guided Tours (an activity sponsored by Caja Vital Kutxa) do much to explain the sudden increase in the influx of visitors. In addition to the previous features, this year the Programme includes a spectacular walkway offering visitors a unique view of both the excavation work and the inside of the cathedral building.
The 23,000 people who visited the cathedral (6,000 during the month of August) came from 50 different countries, in particular the United States, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and France. The figures for domestic tourists differ slightly with regard to previous years. The percentage of visitors from the province of Alava dropped from 70% to 45%, although figures remained stable in absolute terms, indicating an increase in visitors from other provinces rather than a trailing off of interest closer to home.
This change is due mainly to a number of promotional activities which have given the restoration project a much higher profile within the tourist sector over recent months. Thanks to a series of international conferences and seminars, the interest aroused in the national media and attendance by representatives at key tourist fairs (in Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao), the Santa María Cathedral restoration project is now no longer a purely local affair.
Of all the Spanish provinces, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa ranked top as regards the number of visitors, with a total of 3,500. Madrid and Catalonia are next on the list, although this year the number of visitors from neighbouring provinces (Navarre, La Rioja, Aragón, Cantabria and Castilla-León) has also risen sharply. From slightly further away, a significant number of visitors from Andalusia and the Valencian Community also came to look around the cathedral.
Over 7,000 visitors in August
During the month of August the gothic cathedral received an avalanche of over 7,000 visitors - an average of 200 people per day, a figure well above the original estimates of 150. This limit was initially imposed in order to prevent interference to the excavation works due to overcrowding, although admittance criteria are fairly flexible and every effort is made to provide all those who wish to see the cathedral with the opportunity of doing so. For this reason, during the past month additional groups were formed over and above the scheduled tours.
Tours are given in six different languages and it is worth noting that
10% of visitors chose the Basque version. Explanations are also given
in Spanish, English, French, German and Italian. Surveys conducted among
visitors highlighted their "immense satisfaction" with the whole
experience of gaining a first hand glimpse of the restoration work and
archaeological excavations, and underlined the fact that the tour is the
"only one of its kind in the world".
A further 3,000 reservations have already been made from now until the end of the Third Programme of Guided Tours on 31st December this year. Anyone interested in reserving a place on a tour should either phone us on 945 255 135 or visit our website at www.catedralvitoria.com.