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‘There was no Brexit effect in 2016’: British tourists still love Spain

Spain said Thursday it expects the number of foreign visitors to the country to rise even further after it hosted a record 75.3 million international travellers last year.

'There was no Brexit effect in 2016': British tourists still love Spain
Photo: AFP

“Far be it from me to think that we have hit a ceiling, we are far from that,” Tourism Minister Alvaro Nadal told a news conference to present tourism figures for 2016.

The number of arrivals last year was up by 9.9 percent over the 68.1 million foreign visitors who flocked to the country in 2015. It was the fourth consecutive year of record numbers of arrivals.

Britons again topped the list with 17 million visitors to Spain in 2016, about one in five of the total and a 12.3 percent increase over the previous year.

“There was no Brexit effect in 2016, it did not affect British tourism in our country,” said Nadal, before adding this trend should continue this year.   

“Advance reservations as well as requests for landing slots at Spanish airports are going very well which confirms that the tendency for British tourism remains the same.”

READ MORE Off the beaten track: 14 best travel secrets in Spain

The Madrid-based United Nations World Tourism Organisation (WTO) had already said on Monday that Spain had hosted around 75 million foreign arrivals last year.

Spain was the third most visited country in the world in 2015 after France and the United States, according to the WTO. It will unveil its ranking for 2016 on Tuesday.

Each foreign tourist spent an average of €1,023 ($1,078), a 3.75 percent increase over the 2015 figure.

They spent a total of €77 billion in the country in 2016, an 8.3 percent increase over the previous year.

Exceltur, which groups the country's major hotel chains, travel agents and tour operators, warned last year average revenues per person had fallen by between two to six percent, depending on the month, because tourists had shortened the length of their stay.

Tourism represents some 11 percent of Spain's gross domestic product 

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BREXIT

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.

  

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