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Luis Salaya, the mayor of Cáceres, Source: Ayuntamiento de Cáceres

Luis Salaya: We want to build tourism based on sustainability and digitization

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) has a Law Degree (2018) having studied at the University of Extremadura and UDIMA. His political career began in 2004 when he joined the Socialist Youth. On a local level, he first ran in the Caceres elections in 2015 consequently becoming a municipal spokesman. In 2019 he was elected as the youngest mayor of any Spanish provincial capital.

Mr Mayor, how would you describe Cáceres for those who have never been there?

I like referring to Cáceres as an urban provincial capital in the midst of a natural environment. We are very lucky to have the third most important monumental walled complex in Europe, thanks to its conservation and its extension.

For this reason, we have been a UNESCO World Heritage City since 1986. In our historic centre it seems that time has stopped, strolling through its streets takes you back to a past full of palaces, convents, manor houses and churches where the history of Jewish, Arab and Christian cultures intermingle.

Our rich heritage is found here with an outstanding gastronomic tradition and with a varied 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), so birdwatchers can find it to be an ideal destination.

What are the most important economic sectors in your municipality?

Tourism is undoubtedly the most important economic sector in our city. We are a benchmark destination in the region, and we had a year with very positive data. We know that the economic development of Cáceres depends largely on tourism, and we are committed to transforming it hand in hand with the different actors involved. We want to build tourism based on sustainability and digitization.

However, we are also working on projects to promote other sectors. For example, we want to develop the industrial sector with models that are linked to sustainability and clean energy. Among these projects, the photovoltaic plate fields, the creation of an eco-industrial estate and the Iberian Center for Research and Energy Storage are underway.

All the private and public investments that are being developed in the city are turning Cáceres into a benchmark in the world of renewable energy and we want it to continue to be this way.

You are the youngest mayor in the municipal history of Cáceres. What are the biggest challenges that your administration has had to solve, apart from Covid?

Ever since our government team started working, unemployment has been one of our main concerns. For this reason, we have worked to attract sustainable projects and companies whose operations are based in science, industry and innovation, and which offer quality jobs.

Meanwhile, we have also worked to streamline public procurement, which can be a generator of employment, and to encourage aid to companies that see the burdens they face relieved. Such help are the incentives for local consumption, participation in employment plans and the collaboration with the other administrations in the measures that had been put in place.

Cáceres is the capital of a province that borders Portugal. What kinds of projects or collaborations exist with entities on the other side of the frontier?

Many aspects unite us with our neighbours in Portugal, we share a common past and shared goals for the future. The flow of visitors east and west is a constant between Spain and Portugal, as is the flow of commercial and cultural relations.

Initiatives, such as those carried out throughout the year by the Center for the Portuguese Language of the Camoes Institute and the University of Extremadura come to mind. Their goal is to spread the Portuguese culture and language, which have so many followers in our city. Likewise, with initiatives such as the European program Triunbir, which we carry out together with Plasencia, Castelo Branco and Portalegre, we are working on a joint tourism development strategy.

What kind of projects will be financed in the territory of the municipality with the European recovery funds?

Thanks to European funds, numerous public works projects will be launched, mainly related to the rehabilitation of neighbourhoods, sustainable mobility, the ecological transition and the demographic challenge.

More specifically, I can give as an example the construction of the second phase of the University Hospital. In addition, we opt for funds to promote sustainable mobility through the transformation of public transport or to implement Low Emission Zones, among other actions. These projects are expected to generate a significant volume of jobs in the city and its surroundings.

In Cáceres, European funds have been essential for the creation and renovation of numerous urban spaces, the enhancement of the historic centre and the improvement of accessibility and infrastructure.

Do you have any advice for the other mayors of medium-sized cities in the European Union?

More than advice, I would like to give a suggestion that has been useful to me throughout these more than two and a half years as mayor, and that is that they should always consider citizen collaboration and active listening so that they can govern without losing perspective.

In Cáceres, fortunately, we have very active neighbourhood associations and organizations that collaborate with our Town Hall so that the projects that are launched take into account the real needs of citizens.

The work between citizens and public administrations is the most effective way to improve our cities and to advance in the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations.

This collaboration is not only important so that the future of our societies aligns with the needs of citizens, but it is essential for large projects to survive, regardless of who governs.

Only when we achieve the involvement of the residents can we ensure that whoever comes after will be forced to continue fighting for and working on the projects that have been outlined.

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