Spanish tourism industry: full steam ahead

SpaIn October foreign air travellers

The Spanish tourism industry has come out of the recession in relatively good shape. This is reflected by the macroeconomic data. Since 2008, the relative weight of tourism has increased considerably and, in 2011, it already accounted for 4.5% of GDP. The share of workers employed by the sector is also increasing steadily (11.6% in 2012). This is therefore a consolidated industry that, judging by underlying factors, contributes and will continue to contribute to the economy’s recovery.

The sector’s good performance over the last few years is largely due to the dynamism of global tourism. After three years of non-stop growth, the number of international journeys finally broke through the barrier of 1 billion in 2012. Of these, 57.6 million visited Spain, which remained the fourth tourist destination in the world and practically level with the third, China.

Given this situation, it comes as no surprise that revenue from tourism reached a new peak last year, specifically 43.5 billion euros.

The arrival of tourists from outside Europe has been key to boosting the sector. Between January 2008 and December 2012, the number of non-European visitors rose by 1.5 million, an increase of 39.3%. This contrasts with the slow recovery in tourists from the old continent who, last December, were still below their pre-crisis numbers.

However, the latest data available show a certain revival in tourism from Europe, up 5.1% year-on-year between March and May 2013. Moreover, the recovery in the euro area expected for the second half of 2013 is likely to continue boosting visits from other members of the union. Consequently, this year the number of foreign visitors could come close to the peak of June 2008, namely 59.4 million, or even surpass this figure.

But such good news is not restricted to beyond our borders: the decline in domestic tourism is starting to show signs of having bottomed out. May’s increase in the number of overnight hotel stays would support this scenario. In fact, in cumulative terms over twelve months, overnight stays increased by 338,216 in May compared with April. Good figures if we bear in mind the significant fall in numbers since the peak reached in 2007, namely 14.7%. This drop might have actually been greater if some foreign trips had not been replaced by closer national destinations. There is therefore still a lot of room for improvement once domestic demand starts to pick up.

In short, after handling the crisis well, the outlook for the tourist industry is positive. Both in terms of domestic and also foreign tourism.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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