• Spain's news in English
 
   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

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."
 

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Suarez opens Barca league account
Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Suarez opens Barca league account

Luis Suarez celebrated Barcelona's final La Liga game of 2014 with his first league goal for the club in their 5-0 win over Cordoba at the Camp Nou on Saturday. READ  

Attack on ruling party HQ targeted 'all politicians'
The area around the head office of Spain's ruling Popular Party in Madrid was off by police after the attack. Photo: George Mills/The Local

Attack on ruling party HQ targeted 'all politicians'

Updated: The man who rammed a car loaded with gas bottles into the headquarters of Spain's ruling Popular Party in Madrid on Friday morning has said any party could have been the target of the attack as "all politicians are the same". READ  

Nine migrants die in Strait of Gibraltar
A would-be migrant to Africa receives assistance from Spain's Red Cross. File photo: Marcos Moreno/AFP

Nine migrants die in Strait of Gibraltar

Moroccan authorities on Friday recovered the bodies of three babies and six adults who died while trying to cross to Spain in a small boat. READ  

Brit wanted for Spain murder caught in UK
Paul John Scott, from Liverpool, was apprehended on Tuesday night when he flew into East Winch Airfield in Norfolk from the Netherlands. Screen grab: Youtube/Steve Ivie /National Crime Agency

Brit wanted for Spain murder caught in UK

A UK man wanted by Spanish police in connection with the Alicante murder of a fellow Brit in April has been arrested while trying to enter the UK in a light aircraft. READ  

Most Catalans say no to independence: new poll
Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Most Catalans say no to independence: new poll

For the first time since Catalonia’s independence drive began to pick up momentum in 2012, more people are against independence from Spain than in favour of such a move, a new poll run by the regional government shows. READ  

Man torches warehouse full of African migrants
Police watch on as firefighters battle the warehouse blaze in Barcelona on Tuesday. Photo: Quique García/AFP

Man torches warehouse full of African migrants

Police in Barcelona have arrested a young man who allegedly set fire to a warehouse with 14 African migrants inside after they failed to pay rent on the property. READ  

Gang found drug mules in jobless queues
A queue of people waiting at an employment office in Spain. File picture: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Gang found drug mules in jobless queues

A gang of Nigerian drugs traffickers has been busted for recruiting mules from Spanish unemployment queues, as well as for trafficking drugs into Japan disguised as sweets. READ  

Rent hikes threaten Spain's unique shops
A hat store in Madrid's Plaza Mayor: shops like this could be affected Spain's current system of rent controls is scrapped at the end of 2014. File photo: j.labradro/Flickr

Rent hikes threaten Spain's unique shops

Around 200,000 people could lose their jobs just after Christmas when Spain scraps its current system of protected rents for small businesses. Critics worry the move could also turn Spain's high streets into bland, chain-store dominated affairs. READ  

80 percent of under 30s still living at home

80 percent of under 30s still living at home

A new report reveals that the idea of flying the nest remains little more than a pipe dream for many young Spaniards. READ  

Spain to get world's only Smurf theme park
Smurfs wear Phrygian caps which symbolize freedom and the pursuit of liberty. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America/AFP

Spain to get world's only Smurf theme park

The Spanish city of Lleida is set to become home to a Smurf theme park, a project that will create 200 jobs in the region. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Nativity donkey squashed by fat fan
Society
Lifting the lid on Spain's mysterious Christmas lottery
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
What's On
Top 12 things to do in Spain over Christmas
Politics
Spain passes tough new 'anti-protest' law
Business & Money
Google News quits Spain in paid content row
What's On
How to party like a Spaniard: the ultimate guide
Society
Madrid's shocking slum shames Spanish capital
National
Policeman mauled by lions at Barcelona zoo
Business & Money
Uber eyes appeal against Spain ban
Travel
Google offers virtual views of Spain's wonders
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Education
Three Spanish business schools makes Europe's top 10
Health
Spain officially free of Ebola: World Health Organization
Travel
Ten Spanish museums you need to know about
National
Can you pass the Spanish citizenship test?
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Malaga: mini-tornado causes damage on coast
National
Google Maps 'undeletes' famous Cordoba mosque
National
Riot cops star in Down Syndrome calendar
What's On
What's on in Spain: December 2014
Sponsored Article
Travel & live like a local with Home Exchange
National
'Plane laser' finds Roman gold mines in Spain
National
From the Armada to Orwell: ten great quotes about Spain
National
34 percent of Spain's workers on €645 minimum wage
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Society
The Duchess of Alba: eight amazing facts
International
'World's longest railway' links Madrid and China
What's On
What's on in Spain: November 2014
International
MPs call on Spain to recognize Palestine
International
VIDEO: Greenpeace activist injured in Canary Islands oil clash
Education
Spaniards are speaking better English than ever: study
Politics
The Dummies' Guide to Spain's new Podemos Party
National
Ten Spanish dishes to try before you die
Property
Spain's golden visa scheme struggles to take off
National
80 percent of voters say 'yes' to independent Catalonia
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Spaniard
National
Boardgame cashes in on Spain's corruption crisis
Society
Real's Ronaldo world's second richest athlete
National
Priests slam Spain's jacuzzi-loving 'archbishop of bling'
National
Ten shocking corruption cases hurting Spain
National
Seville: Erasmus student dies in selfie fall
Travel
Top ten: brilliant Barcelona restaurants
Society
Dad told to pay child support to 29-year-old daughter
Politics
'We're sorry': Spanish PM apologizes over corruption scandals
Tech
Meet Mr Biceps: Spanish policeman heats up Instagram
National
37 arrested as massive anti-corruption raids rattle Spain
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

597
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply