• Spain edition
 
   Spanish sun draws record tourist numbers
A youth cools off in a fountain of Sevilla where temperatures exceeded 40 degres last August . AFP Photo/ Cristina Quicler

Spanish sun draws record tourist numbers

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

"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."
 

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Travelling Spain
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
From short family day-trips with family to mega two-week circuits, Spain offers something for all cyclists. Photo of a cyclist: Shutterstock

Top ten: best bike rides in Spain

To honour the start of the 2014 edition of Spain's amazing Vuelta cycling race on Saturday, The Local has put together a list of some of the greatest Spanish bicycle rides. Saddle up everyone! READ  

La Vuelta: Preview
Chris Froome to take on hot Quintana in Spain
The pack ride during the last stage of the 68th edition of "La Vuelta" Tour of Spain, a 109,6 kilometres ride from Leganes to Madrid, in September 2013. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Chris Froome to take on hot Quintana in Spain

Chris Froome will go head-to-head with in-form Colombian rider Nairo Quintana when the final Grand Tour of the season, the majestic Tour of Spain, gets underway in Jerez on Saturday. READ  

Tourism talk
Spain welcomes record tourist numbers in July
British tourists led the influx in July followed by the French and Germans, the Spanish government said. Photo of a tourist: Shutterstock

Spain welcomes record tourist numbers in July

Spain reported Friday record foreign visitor numbers in July, raising the prospect of a significant economic boost from the important summer tourism season. READ  

Sexist mayor shocks Spain with rape gaffe
A suitably unimpressed female radio presenter interviews León de la Riva, mayor of Valladolid. File Photo: Connect Euranet/Flickr

Sexist mayor shocks Spain with rape gaffe

Another Spanish politician has got himself into hot water after voicing his opinions on the Interior Ministry's controversial anti-rape guidelines and the shelved case of an alleged group rape in Malaga. READ  

Indonesia shipwreck
Two Spanish shipwreck victims still missing
Survivors of the shipwreck rest at a house near to the Indonesian town of Bima on August 17th. Photo: Andy Amaldan/AFP

Two Spanish shipwreck victims still missing

Indonesian authorities are continuing to search for two Spanish citizens, including a 43-year-old from Seville, the only people still missing after a tourist boat carrying 25 people in the country's waters sank on Sunday. READ  

Barcelona protests
Locals ramp up 'war' on low-cost tourism
Barceloneta residents have criticized authorities for not addressing the alcohol-fuelled noise, filth and reckless behaviour in the central Barcelona district. Photo: FacemePLS/Flickr

Locals ramp up 'war' on low-cost tourism

Barcelona has seen a second night of street protests against so-called 'drunken tourism' and illegal apartment rental despite authorities announcing they will clamp down on unregistered holiday apartments "by the end of the year". READ  

Ferry firm LD Lines slashes UK-Spain routes
According to the BBC, “several 100” people have been rebooked on Brittany Ferries which will drop them off at Portsmouth, 88 kilometres (55 miles) away from Poole. Photo: David Jones

Ferry firm LD Lines slashes UK-Spain routes

Ferry company LD Lines has been slammed by customers and Spanish authorities after it announced it will be stopping its services from the south-eastern UK city of Poole to Gijón and Santander in northern Spain. READ  

Miss Spain comes out of closet on Instagram
Patricia Yurena Rodríguez has thanked people for their support after posting a picture of herself with lover Vanesa Klein on Instagram. Photo: Darren Decker/Miss Universe Organization/AFP

Miss Spain comes out of closet on Instagram

The winner of the 2013 Miss Spain contest, Patricia Yurena, has become the first holder of the tile to declare herself gay, posting a picture of herself with her lover in bed on the social media site Instagram. READ  

'Germany must apologize for Spain Civil War role'
German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler meets with Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, in October 1940, at an undisclosed location. Photo: AFP

'Germany must apologize for Spain Civil War role'

Spanish campaigners said on Thursday they have written to the German Chancellor demanding she apologize for her country helping the country's former dictator Francisco Franco in Spain's civil war. READ  

Woman fakes kidnapping to boost music career
The woman confessed the kidnapping was a set-up and that she wanted the money to start her singing career Photo of a woman with her hands tied: Shutterstock

Woman fakes kidnapping to boost music career

A Barcelona woman has been arrested after allegedly faking her own kidnapping in the Dominican Republic to raise money to record a CD. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Top ten: Spain's best natural swimming pools
Property
'Dying' town flogs off land for €200 to woo new blood
National
Gays to blame for Spain's trillion euro debt: senator
Society
Spain's anti-rape guidelines: 1) Close your curtains
International
Merkel to walk (part of) Spain's Camino de Santiago
National
Woman on Madrid plane had 1.7kg coke in breasts
Health
'Spain's hospitals aren't ready for Ebola'
Travel
Twelve things tourists do that annoy Spaniards
National
Swiss sex tourists slapped with seatbelt fine
Features
Top ten 'English' words made in Spain: Part 2
International
'I hate the black man in the White House'
Travel
Top 10: Spanish tourist traps you should avoid
National
127 kg of cocaine found on navy training ship
National
Spain's 14-year-old jihadist girl locked up
International
Fox News names Penelope Cruz 'idiot of the week'
International
Spain pulls plug on weapons sales to Israel
Tech
Made in Spain: the ice cream that changes colour while you eat
National
Pic of the day: Spain dazzles in Nasa photo
Politics
A to Z of Spanish politics: a handy guide
International
Orlando Bloom 'punches' Justin Bieber in Ibiza
What's On
What's on in Spain: August
National
Spanish town fights 'Fifty Shades' bondage hotel
Property
Spanish house prices to start climbing in 2016: S&P
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,635
jobs available