What Spain’s tourism industry should keep an eye on

Spain's tourism things to improveBeach at Málaga, at the south of Spain

The tourism sector plays a very important role in the Spanish economy. And its prospects are positive looking ahead to the coming years, based on the different statistics available.

Tourism in Spain accounted for 11.1% of GDP in 2015; a percentage which has been progressively increasing since 2010, when it was 10.2%, according to figures from the Tourism Satellite Account. This offers a macroeconomic measure of tourism in line with recommendations from the WTO, OECD and Eurostat. It also provides information relevant to the labour market, which reveals that in 2015, 2.49 million jobs linked to tourism were registered.

Data from the World Bank shows that international tourism spending in Spain has increased almost 300% in the last 20 years compared with 134% in Germany, 226% in France, 142% in Italy and 259% in the UK. Official statistics show that in July 2017, Spain received a total of 10.510.531 international tourists (15.227.586 if we also include those on excursions), with the UK being the main source (22.1%), followed by France (14.8%), and Germany (13.4%). In accumulated terms, the number of international tourists who visited our country was 46.876.541 in July. According to predictions, this figure could reach 84 million in 2017, meaning that Spain could surpass France for the first time as the global destination which attracts most tourists.

That said, there are various elements which should make us reflect on whether the tourism business is as well focused as it could be and if it is adapting easily to a changing reality.

Intermoney analysts flag that from an international standpoint, it still remains to be seen what the consequence of Brexit will be on the Spanish economy, given that tourism is one of the activities which could suffer the most as the UK provides the most tourists (2.318.788 in July).

A ‘hard’ Brexit could mean that costs increase for British tourists in Spain, which would have negative effects on the more sensitive segments of demand.

The experts also highlight that the latest surveys reveal Britons’ holidays abroad are increasingly shorter: according to the Office for National Statistics, holidays which last for two weeks have declined by 25% in the last ten years, while one week breaks have more than doubled. So these changes could have an impact on total tourist spending, which could end up falling.

On the other hand, there are various currents which criticise the quality of tourism in Spain. As said above, the British, French and German make up over 50% of foreign tourists in our country. But in all cases, their average daily spending (€132, €87 and €128 respectively) are some of the lowest levels. This shows us that the biggest source of international tourism in our country is one of those which generates the least wealth on an individual basis.

And at the same time, although tourism’s contribution to Spain’s labour market is more than relevant, it’s a fact that employment in this sector sparks certain worrying questions.

According to the latest Structural Salary Survey (2015), the average earnings per worker in the catering sector (€13.977) is well below the national average (€23.106). And it has hardly changed compared to levels of 9 years ago (€13.957 in 2008). So the authorities need to be aware of the fact that tourism experiences the same traditional problem of the Spanish labour market (its duality). And this can create difficulties in the long-term.

Other important challenges which the future brings are the optimisation of resources, technological modernisation, making infrastructures adequate and the use of new technologies, Intermoney analysts say.

“Thus it will be interesting to see how the sector develops in the different regions (taking into account that each one of them has its own peculiarities),” they conclude.

*Image: Pxhere