Just six months after Spain smashed its tourism record the government is concerned by a surprising drop in numbers of visitors in the first 6 months of 2018.
82 million holidaymakers visited the country in 2017, 42 million of whom were from Britain, Germany and France.
But the apparent slowdown of these three European markets in the first six months of 2018 is leading the Spanish government to fear a slowdown, stagnation and even decline in tourism numbers for the third quarter, the most important one of the year.
There was a 2.2 percent drop in arrivals in Spain from January to June and a 3.1 percent fall in overnight stays.
According to an August 2018 report by national tourism body Turespaña, the third quarter is expected to be one of “moderate growth or stagnation” in terms of tourist numbers, “moderate growth” in spending and a “decline or stagnation” when it comes to overnight stays.
Dubbed the “Prospective Report of International Tourism to Spain”, the study referred to the British, German and French markets as the “least promising” for this crucial summer period.
Turespaña forecasts a 4.2 percent drop in the number of British tourists in Spain during this third quarter, although they are expected to spend 5.3 percent more and will make up 1.9 percent more of overnight stays.
Germans are expected to reduce their overnight stays in Spain by 5.1 percent in the third quarter, despite their predicted increase of 3.1percent in terms of arrivals and 2.4 percent rise in spending.
As for French tourists, Turespaña actually has positive forecasts, in terms of numbers (+4.7 percent), spending (+8.1 percent) and overnight stays (+ 5 percent).
France’s inclusion on the “least promising” list is most likely based on the fact that growth of the French market is still below what previously expected for 2018.
However, July tourism data from Spain’s national stats body INE contests some of Turespaña’s predictions.
For starters, almost a million fewer tourists arrived in Spain in July than predicted by the tourism body (29.4 million forecast).
Overnight stays by Germans fell by 11.4 percent and 2.5 percent by Britons. Among French tourists it did indeed rise by 2.8 percent.
According to INE, an overall growth in spending of 4.2 percent by international tourists in Spain was the main figure fighting the apparent deceleration of the tourism industry in July.
Tourism authorities are certainly not expecting records to be beaten in 2018 but according to José Luis Zoreda, vice president of Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur, it’s important for the industry “to not fall into defeatism, get nervous or fall into the temptation” of lowering prices.
Zoreda told El País that the “slowdown” of the sector, especially when it comes to the British and German markets, is greater than expected and can be largely blamed on the “mesmerizing” recovery of Turkey, which has also been favoured by the recent depreciation of the Turkish lira.
“Spain must compete for differentiation, for quality, not for price,” he warns.