Tourism on the up

Life in Spain Sun, 1 Feb 2015
Tourism in Spain on the up

One of the main foundations of the Spanish economy is tourism. Tourism and Spain have been linked in the minds of many Europeans for decades.

However, this close relationship hasn’t always been cosy or predictable and the tourism statistics for Spain are evidence of this. During the last 13 years there have been some peaks and troughs. Events within Spain as well as those internationally have at times made a difference to the numbers choosing to spend their holidays here.

Events impacting negatively on the tourism record for Spain include:

  • The September 11th terrorist attacks which led to a reduction in the number of flights recorded and during 2001 the lowest number of tourists recorded (48.5)
  • The economic crisis with a swift drop in tourist figures between 2008 and 2009 reaching a low of 52.2 million

Those factors impacting positively on Spanish tourism include:

  • The opening in Madrid of the terminals 1-4
  • The fall in popularity of some destinations such as Egypt in 2010-12

These waves of popularity now look to be securely on their way up.  The Association Exceltur is made up of sector businesses such as Iberia, Air Nostrum and American Express. If they have their figures right, then the Spanish tourist industry should be feeling pretty pleased with itself right now.

In 2014, 65 million tourists were estimated to have travelled to Spain. A figure that is equal to the total number of inhabitants of France. Not surprisingly those compiling this exciting set of figures see 2015 as pretty promising too with a projected increase of 2.6% in 2015.

Why are they flocking to Spain?

So what is at the bottom of this upturn?  Uncertainty about the safety of some traditional tourist destinations, such as Egypt, has meant more tourists choosing Spain.  A powerful draw at the moment is the exchange rate of the euro. Anyone with a different currency, such as the pound, is likely to get more euros for their money. This means cheaper holidays and the enticement of more cash to spend whilst they’re here.

Cheaper fuel prices are leading some airlines to reduce their fares, making all kinds of breaks in Spain, including visits to family and friends, more affordable.

It’s not only foreign tourists who are improving prospects. There has also been an increase in the number of Spaniards taking a break in Spain. Exceltur suggest that this is partly the result of improvements in the AVE railway system

In the end, there are a number of factors at work. The weather, the state of other nations’ economies and other international and local events can send potential visitors searching for breaks in sunny Spain, or not.

Unrecorded travellers could even push the statistics higher. It has been suggested that the tourist industry’s own ‘Uber’, with tourists staying in unregistered accommodation, might be disguising the full extent of Spain’s tourism statistics. An issue that regional governments currently look set to address.

Will the upturn continue?

Figures for 2015 may be optimistic but what after that? Not everything may act in favour of the continued recovery. One factor to watch out for is the return of countries to the tourist market who might have been avoided previously.

Russian tourism had been increasing but more recently the Russian market has dropped and, in fact, depreciated by 9.7% since last year. It is also speculated that the events surrounding Charlie Hebdo might have an impact upon international travel, similar to in the aftermath of September 11th

But it’s not just quantity, it’s quality that matters too. Tourists might be greater in numbers, but it’s reported that they are spending less. It is estimated that average spending per tourist dropped by 3% in comparison to the previous year.

So, overall it’s good news even if what’s just over the horizon is less certain. In the meantime, it’s good to see Spain basking in a return to its prime place as the tourist destination of Europe. 

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