Spain’s tourism sector is on course for another record-breaking year, with close to 50 million international visitors arriving on its shores in the first seven months of 2017, an 11.3% rise on 2016 and 49.4% higher than in 2010. Tourist spending is also increasing at an even faster pace.
Of course all this good news has undoubtedly been overshadowed by the August 17 terrorist attacks in the heart of Barcelona and in the coastal town of Cambrils. Will these events now have an impact on international tourists’ perception of Spain as a “safe” destination in the Mediterranean? CaixaBank Resarch believes the tourism sector has three main strengths which should help maintain its role as a main driver of the Spanish economy.
The first strong point is the quality of Spain’s tourism offer. The experts explain:
“There are of course important tailwinds affecting demand, like the recovery of the Eurozone economy, the instability in other tourist destinations like North Africa and the overall bullish trend in global tourism. But Spain’s tourism sector is also highly competitive.”
CaixaBank Research flags the bi-annual report on tourism published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in April 2017, where Spain is once again the most competitive out of 136 countries, ahead of France, Germany, Japan or the US.
“The tourism competitive index evaluates each country in 14 different areas, which are then divided into 19 sub-areas…And Spain does well not just in segments like culture and natural resources. It also gets a good mark in areas which are investment- intensive like security and infrastructure.”
Against the current backdrop of a heightening terrorism threat in Europe, this security aspect is particularly relevant and constitutes Spain’s second strong point, CaixaBank Research says.
They point out that in the WEF report, Spain has a relatively good position in terms of security, with particular emphasis on the efficiency of its police service. This is seen as compensating for the possible deterioration in the international perception of Spain as a “safe haven” after recent events.
The third key point in favour of Spain’s tourism industry is the fact that most of its visitors come from Europe, which is not the case for countries like France, according to CaixaBank Research.
In 2016, the number of foreign tourists to Grand Paris fell 8.3%, with Japanese, Russian and Chinese visitors accounting for the biggest drop.
“These tourists, apparently more sensitive to changes in the perception of security represented 12.6% of total foreign visitors to Grand Paris in 2015. In Spain’s case, they only accounted for 2.6% of foreign tourist arrivals (according to July 2017 figures, accumulated over 12 months).”