• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Spanish sun draws record tourist numbers

AFP · 19 Jan 2014, 12:35

Published: 19 Jan 2014 12:35 GMT+01:00

An unprecedented 60.4 million foreign tourists came to Spain last year, spending an estimated 45.1 billion euros ($61 billion), according to industry association Exceltur.

The visitors came mostly from Britain, Germany and France, with a jump in Russian tourist numbers, too, it said.

"It was a really good year which gives us a lot of hope after some difficult years," Exceltur president Amancio Lopez told AFP.

Indeed, tourism is pivotal to the Spanish economy, which emerged in the third quarter last year from a two-year recession, still dragged down by a 26-percent unemployment rate.

"We think tourism should be an engine to help improve the Spanish economy, as it always has been," Lopez said.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

But Spain believes it can better exploit its attractions.

"Obviously, the most sought-after destinations are for sun and beach holidays whereas urban tourism has suffered a bit," Lopez said.

"I think Spain has a richness not only for sun and beach holidays but also for cultural, gastronomic and lifestyle holidays," he said.

Though industry estimates have yet to be confirmed by government numbers due Tuesday, Spain clearly enjoyed a boom in 2013.

"It was a really good year," said Jose Luis Mendez, treasurer of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies, CEAV, which estimated foreign tourism numbers in 2013 at "close to 60 million".

Tourism, like the automobile industry, accounts for about 10 percent of Spanish economic output and last year's performance should place Spain as the world's number three destination.

Like his colleagues, Mendez said Spain had been typecast as a sunny beach market, overshadowing a wealth of cultural, gastronomic and rural destinations.

Britons and Germans tended to prefer the Canary Islands off Africa, French tourists were drawn to Catalonia, and Russians liked both Catalonia and the Balearic islands such as Majorca, Mendez said.

Besides Spain's own attractions, however, one of the keys to its success in 2013 was misfortune in Egypt, where months of violent clashes and demonstrations turned visitors away.

Egypt lost 2.5 million tourists from June, said Exceltur vice president Jose Luis Zoreda. "Curiously, Spain's tourists grew by 3 million," he added.

But tourists hardly stepped foot in Spain's interior, where destinations were already suffering from a decline in domestic Spanish tourist numbers because of the economic crisis.

"The results were not good in the cities, except for Barcelona," Zoreda said, with Madrid doing worst and all inland tourism down except for the wine-growing Rioja region.

The Rioja region in Spain's north specialised in wine tourism, providing a good example for other parts of the country, the tourism official said.

Story continues below…

"Spain must grow with a distinctive element of its own," he said.

However, "a large proportion of the demand we got from Egypt has been budget tourism," Zoreda admitted, urging Spain to develop a higher-quality, more diverse offer.

More than half of Spanish tourism businesses -- 54.8 percent -- reported lower profits last year, according to Exceltur.

"The situation clearly benefited sun and beach tourism. Nevertheless we are facing difficult situations in other areas that rely on domestic tourism and have not been able to benefit from foreign tourism," agreed Juan Molas, president of the hotels confederation CEHAT.

"You must not forget that 70 to 80 percent of our visitors choose beach destinations," Molas said.

"That is the great challenge for Spanish tourism: to sell and spread the word about all the tourism products in the rest of Spain."
 

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Madrid LGBT group takes action over ‘gay cure therapy’
Madrid introduced anti-homophobic laws earlier this month. Photo: AFP

A Spanish pressure group that fights against homophobia has filed a complaint against a therapist who offers “to cure homosexuality”.

Expat Spain: Warm, friendly and brilliant for family life
Spain is one of the best nations for expats. Photo: theinterngroup.com/ Flickr

A great climate and friendly locals make up for the lack of career opportunities in Spain, according to a survey ranking the quality of life for expats around the world.

La Tomatina: Everything you need to know about epic fiesta

Every year on the last Wednesday in August the town of Buñol prepares to get seriously messy when it stages what has become the world's biggest food fight.

Costa del Sol beach closed over shark fears
The Civil Guard patrolled the beach looking for the shark. Photo: Pedrator_desert/ Twitter

Thought jellyfish were a nuisance? Fuengirola just got a lot scarier.

The Local List
15 amazing Unesco World Heritage sites to visit in Spain
The town of Ávila. Photo: Chroniron/Wikimedia Commons.

Spain has an impressive 45 locations listed as Unesco World Heritage sites for their cultural significance or natural beauty, including some that are entire towns. Here's a look at some of the most stunning.

Rajoy says forming new government ‘a wish’
Spain has been subject to a political deadlock for the past eight months. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP file picture

Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned Saturday ahead of parliament's confidence vote for a second term in office that the formation of a new government remained "more of a wish".

Spanish police smash Chinese immigration ring
The Chinese nationals paid the ring about €8,000 to get a fake work contract. Photo: Cristina Quicler /AFP

Spanish police said Saturday they had smashed a major ring allegedly providing Chinese nationals living illegally in the country with fake contracts as domestic staff so they could get residency permits.

Gallery
10 super Spanish drinks everyone should try
Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr

While we've all been tempted by the Spanish holiday classic of a chilled glass of sangria, Spain has much more to offer when it comes to tantalizing tipples.

Property
Buy your own Mediterranean island paradise for just €5m

Got a spare €5 million? Then this Mediterranean island paradise could be yours.

Vamos a la playa! These are Spain's top ten beaches
Playa de Ses Illetes, Formentera, Europe's best beach. Photo:Photo: Ismail Mia/Flickr

Spain has five beaches in Europe's top ten. The Local gives you a tour.

Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Shocking video shows torture of young calf during fiesta
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Police launch appeal for Costa Blanca hit and run driver
Politics
What political deadlock? Spain economy forges ahead
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Features
Eight reasons to spend your gap year exploring Spain
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
International
'We won't ban burqinis on our beaches' insists Barcelona
National
British dad drowns saving daughter on red flagged beach
National
11 Spanish words that English must adopt right now
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Justin Bieber just bought an amazing new pad in Lanzarote
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Recipe: How to make Andalusian Ajo Blanco soup
Travel
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Travel
Ten touristy types you'll meet in Spain: Which one are you?
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Ten top tips to avoid looking like a guiri when in Spain
International
Don't miss this spectacular meteor shower over Spain
Travel
Desperate Ryanair passenger chases after missed flight
Travel
What's on in Spain: August 2016
National
Get your kit off! Spain's ten best nudist beaches
National
German firestarter blames blaze on 'toilet paper mishap'
National
Flashmob prank sparks 'terror attack' panic in Spanish resort
Culture
Croquemon Go: Spain invents twist on game to 'eat 'em all'
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
National
Spanish parents fight for right to name their son 'Wolf'
National
Beach closed after shark attack in southern Spain
National
Spain ups security at tourist spots as terrorism fears grow
3,239
jobs available