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How Spain's extreme heat is changing tourists' habits

The Local Spain
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How Spain's extreme heat is changing tourists' habits
The hotter it gets in Spain, the less tourists spend. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

A new study has highlighted the effects Spain’s increasingly soporific summer weather has on holidaymakers’ decisions and behaviour.

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There’s no denying that one of the primary reasons tourists visit Spain is the reliably warm weather, but there’s a point when it gets too hot even for the most fervent of sunseekers.

2023 was the hottest year on record in 18 Spanish provinces, the summer was the third warmest on average in Spanish history, and by September 522 different heat records had already been beaten across the country.

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Put simply, it’s getting hotter year on year in Spain. Heatwaves start earlier and last longer, in many cases confining Spaniards indoors or wherever they can keep cool.

So it’s no surprise that a new study by Caixabank Research has concluded that extreme heat is also having an impact on the way tourists in Spain behave.

 

Tourists spend less

The standout conclusion their findings have shown is that the hotter it is, the less tourists spend.

“We see that tourist spending is growing more in areas with more moderate climates,” stated the study’s coordinator David César Neymann.

From 2019 to 2023, tourist spending increased by 45 percent in parts of Spain where the average monthly temperature isn’t above 21C. 

Holidaymakers have splurged more than in previous years even in areas where the mercury hits alarming levels during July and August, but this has been considerably lower.

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Where the average summer temperature is above 25C, tourist spending grew by 30 percent, 15 percent less.

During the hottest hours of the day during summer, from midday to 5pm, visitors are increasingly staying indoors seeking refuge, and therefore not getting their wallets out. 

According to Caixabank Research, on the hottest days, 0.12 percent less is spent for each degree Celsius higher that temperatures rise above the average.

And the loss of income for businesses is widespread: 0.34 percent less is billed in the leisure sector, 0.16 percent less in restaurants and 0.13 percent less in supermarkets. 

The only sector that sees its income increase at these peaks of extreme heat are pharmacies (0.06 percent more).

The report’s authors argue that Spain’s coastal areas have to develop a tourism policy that depends less on sun, sea and sand to reduce the impact of heatwaves on their local tourism industry, while still “promoting water activities during the hottest parts of the day, improve shading and cooling facilities on beaches, and develop nighttime markets or events to mitigate the effects of heat”.

READ ALSO :Is it worth living in Spain if the summers are so unbearably hot?

 

Fewer tourists overall

It may have recently been announced that Spain beat its record for most annual tourist arrivals in 2023 with 84 million, but extreme heat will buck that trend according to the Caixabank Research study.

An average temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius in Spain would reduce annual tourist demand by 3.1 according to this report, and up to 15 percent during the sweltering months of July and August. 

The impact would be much greater in regions such as the Balearic Islands or Murcia, Caixabank concludes.

 

More tourists visiting outside summer 

Spain will not cease to be popular overall due to the infernal weather it often experiences in June, July, August and September. 

But as could be expected, Caixabank Research’s findings point to a ‘deseasonalization’ of tourism, which in other words means fewer tourists visiting during summer, due largely to the unbearable weather.

It’s already happening as visitor numbers grew five times more in the second and fourth quarters of 2023 than in the third (summer months).

Caixabank’s Neymann believes this trend will be further consolidated "due to the increase in people enjoying more flexibility because they do not have school-age children and as some workers can take holidays out of season thanks to remote working and more flexible work dynamics."

READ ALSO: Eight places in Spain where it doesn't get too hot in summer

 

Holidaymakers heading north

Caixabank Research’s study did not focus on how an increasing number of holidaymakers are opting to visit the cooler, green and wetter northern coast of Spain, but official statistics from 2023 certainly point to this trend. 

For example, data analysis portal Datamania found that northern Spain had already recovered pre-Covid tourism levels in June and July 2023 whereas the rest of Spain hadn’t, and that A Coruña was the province with the biggest increase in visitor numbers at that stage.

The cool haven that northern Spain can represent during summer is particularly well known among Spaniards currently, but foreign holidaymakers are also quickly discovering the wonders that this part of the country offers.

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