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TOURISM

Spain’s sharp rise in tourists still below pre-pandemic levels

The number of foreign tourists visiting Spain rose exponentially this summer as Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted but arrivals remained below the level seen before the pandemic, new official figures show.

-SPAIN-TOURISM-NUMBERS
Tourists sunbathe at Playa de Palma in Palma de Mallorca. Last year only 31.1 million foreigners visited Spain, well below the 45 million expected by the government. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

Spain, the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, welcomed 9.1 million foreigners in July, and 8.8 million in August, national statistics institute INE said.

That represents a 106.2 per cent increase in arrivals in July from the same month last year, and a 69.7 per cent jump in August from the same year-ago period, it added.

But the total number of arrivals during the two months –17.9 million – remained lower than the record 20 million seen in 2019 before the pandemic-related travel restrictions ravaged the global tourism industry.

Tourism Minister María Reyes Maroto called the arrival figures for the two peak holiday months “extraordinary”.

“We are facing an autumn without inflation and the uncertainty caused by the war” in Ukraine hurting the sector’s recovery “for now,” she added in a statement.

During the first eight months of the year Spain welcomed 48 million foreign tourists, equivalent to 83 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.

The largest number of visitors during the period were British, accounting for more than 10 million arrivals, followed by French, who made up seven million visits, and Germans, who accounted for 2.3 million.

In the same period, the most popular destinations were the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Isles, the Canary Islands and Andalusia in the south, the INE said.

Spain in 2019 hit a record for the seventh year in a row, welcoming a total of 83.5 million foreign tourists. Only France received more that year.

The number of foreign visitors plunged to 19 million the following year due to the pandemic.

Last year only 31.1 million foreigners visited Spain, well below the 45 million expected by the government.

Tourism accounts for some 12 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic output and the drop in arrivals hit the economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, hard.

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FOOTBALL

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy cheap and boozy World Cup

Wales supporters have flocked to the Spanish island of Tenerife to support their team in the World Cup instead of Qatar after a fan suggested the idea in a tweet that went viral. Unfortunately, there have already been some drunken excesses.

How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy cheap and boozy World Cup

When Wales qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1958 in June, Bethany Evans, 25, looked in to going to Qatar but was put off by the steep cost and strict restrictions on alcohol.

So she suggested Tenerife as an alternative on Twitter “as a joke” and the idea snowballed, with the post re-tweeted over 200 times and some 2,500 fellow Wales fans reaching out to say they would join her.

“I really thought it was just going to be me and a few friends, so this is absolutely incredible,” said Evans, a health and safety manager from Pontypridd, Wales who flew to Tenerife on the opening day of the tournament with her father and six friends.

She said she paid £750 (€865, $905) for a flight to Tenerife and a week’s accommodation while going to Qatar would have set her back £3,000.

Pubs and restaurants in the south of Tenerife, part of Spain’s sun-kissed Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa, have rolled out the welcome mat, decorating their walls with Welsh flags and putting Wales matches on TV.

Kelly Spiers, 45, the owner of the Original Wigan Pier pub and its sister bar La Flaca next door in Costa Adeje, said she had to order extra beer after she agreed at Evans’s request to host fans.

Decked out in red Welsh football jerseys and bucket hats, hundreds of Wales fans packed the two bars for their side’s 1-1 draw with the United States in their opener on November 21st and the 2-0 defeat to Iran on Friday.

“A lot of us have lost our voices because we have been shouting across the bar trying to get people’s orders because they were so noisy,” said Spiers, who is from Northern Ireland.

Spiers, who has lived in Tenerife for 26 years, has given Welsh names to cocktails and hired a choir to perform during halftime of the Welsh team’s crucial match against England on Tuesday.

A draw will be enough for England to make it through to the last 16 whereas Wales need to beat England to have any chance of qualifying, and hope for a draw between the United States and Iran in the other match.

Welsh fans have jammed other bar and restaurants in palm-lined Costa Adeje as well as nearby Los Cristianos and other coastal towns in the south of Tenerife, the most visited of the Canary Islands which is home to around 950,000 people.

Tony Lankshear, who works at Hoops Bar in Los Cristianos, said there have been Welsh fans “in every night” since the tournament began.

“It just sort of caught on. Word spread among all the Welsh supporters, a lot of them decided ‘right let’s go over and have a party in Tenerife’,” he said.

Unfortunately, there was a reminder of the alcohol-fuelled excesses of British tourists in Spain when on Friday drunk Wales and England fans took part in mass brawl in Las Veronicas bar area.

Videos have been widely shared on social media showing how a number of inebriated tourists punch, kick, push and even throw chairs at each other, resulting in several injuries. 

As a result, Tenerife authorities have reinforced police presence in the tourist areas ahead of England v Wales on Tuesday night.

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