Luis Salaya: We want to build tourism based on sustainability and digitization
An interview with the Mayor of Cáceres (Spain)
Luis Salaya Julián (Zaragoza, 1988) holds a degree in Law (2018) after studying at the University of Extremadura and UDIMA. His political career began in 2004 when he joined the Socialist Youth. At the local level, he ran for the first time in the elections in Cáceres in 2015 and subsequently became community spokesman. In 2019 he was elected the youngest mayor of a Spanish provincial capital.
Mr Mayor, how would you describe Cáceres for those who have never been there?
I like to describe Cáceres as an urban provincial capital in a natural setting. We are very fortunate to have the 3rd most important monumental wall complex in Europe, thanks to its preservation and its expansion.
For this reason we have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. In our historic center time seems to have stopped, a walk through the streets will take you back to a past full of palaces, convents, mansions and churches where the history of Jewish, Arabic and Christian cultures mingle.
Here you will find our rich heritage with an outstanding gastronomic tradition and a diverse cultural and artistic offer. Among the attractions we offer visitors, the new Helga de Alvear Museum stands out. Inaugurated in February, it houses one of the most outstanding collections of contemporary art in Europe.
In addition, our city has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) and is therefore an ideal destination for bird watchers.
What are the main industries in your community?
Tourism is undoubtedly the most important economic sector in our city. We are a benchmark destination in the region and have had a year of very positive data. We know that the economic development of Cáceres largely depends on tourism and we are committed to transforming it hand in hand with the various actors involved. We want to build tourism on sustainability and digitization.
But we also work on projects to promote other sectors. For example, we want to develop the industrial sector with models linked to sustainability and clean energy. Among these projects, the fields for photovoltaic panels, the creation of an eco-industrial area and the Iberian Center for Research and Energy Storage are underway.
All the private and public investments that are being developed in the city make Cáceres a benchmark in the world of renewable energy and we want it to stay that way.
You are the youngest mayor in the history of Cáceres. Besides Covid, what are the biggest challenges that your administration had to solve?
Since our government team started work, one of our main concerns has been unemployment. For this reason we have worked to attract sustainable projects and companies whose activities are based in science, industry and innovation and which offer quality jobs.
Meanwhile, we’ve also worked to streamline government procurement, which can create jobs, and support businesses that see their burdens eased. Such aids are the incentives for local consumption, participation in employment plans and cooperation with the other administrations in the measures introduced.
Cáceres is the capital of a province that borders Portugal. What types of projects or collaborations are there with institutions on the other side of the border?
Many aspects connect us with our neighbors in Portugal, we share a common past and common goals for the future. The flow of visitors to the east and west is a constant between Spain and Portugal, as is the flow of commercial and cultural relations.
Think of initiatives such as those carried out throughout the year by the Portuguese Language Center of the Camoes Institute and the University of Extremadura. Their goal is to spread the Portuguese culture and language that has so many followers in our city. We are also working on a common tourism development strategy with initiatives such as the European program Triunbir, which we run together with Plasencia, Castelo Branco and Portalegre.
What kind of projects are financed in the territory of the commune with the European rehabilitation funds?
Thanks to European funds, numerous public works projects are launched, mainly related to the regeneration of neighborhoods, sustainable mobility, ecological transition and the demographic challenge.
More specifically, I can cite the construction of the second phase of the university hospital as an example. In addition, we decide, among other things, on funds to promote sustainable mobility by redesigning public transport or implementing environmental zones. These projects are expected to create numerous jobs in and around the city.
In Cáceres, European funding has been instrumental in creating and renovating numerous urban spaces, enhancing the historic center and improving accessibility and infrastructure.
Do you have any advice for the other mayors of medium-sized cities in the European Union?
More than just advice, I would like to make a suggestion that has been useful to me during these more than two and a half years as mayor, namely that they should always consider citizen cooperation and active listening so that they can govern without losing perspective.
Fortunately, in Cáceres we have very active neighborhood associations and organizations that work with our town hall so that the projects launched take into account the real needs of the citizens.
Collaboration between citizens and public administrations is the most effective way to improve our cities and advance the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations.
This cooperation is important not only for the future of our societies to be aligned with the needs of citizens, but also for the survival of great projects, regardless of who governs.
Only by getting local residents involved can we ensure that all who follow are forced to keep fighting and working on the projects outlined.