The World Travel Market is days away so it’s time to focus on one of the most exciting travel stories of the moment; the Spainish tourism boom.
This year 72 million people have visited Spain making it the third most popular tourist destination on earth.
If the Spanish tourist industry maintains its current momentum – having seen growth of around 5% for the last few years now – it will soon be challenging America and then France for the ultimate top spot.
According to the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2015 Spain is “the most tourism-ready economy in the world”. So, fifty years on since Brits fell in love with Spanish holidays, why are so many flocking to Espana?
Maitane Torca, Head of International at Addition+, takes a close look at how and why tourism is booming in her beloved homeland.
#1. Tourism in Spain set to increase
In 2015, 68 million tourists visited Spain – up 5% on 2014. In 2016, this figure will reach 72 million. 2017 is expected to grow by a further 7%, making it worth a staggering €23 billion.
This is great news for Spain, given tourism represents 11% of the country’s GDP. It has meant that people and Government have been more than willing to continually up investment in tourism and hospitality over the last ten years.
#2. Spain is a safe haven
With many tourist destinations around the Mediterranean plagued by economic and political turmoil, and some by terror threats, Spain is now a safe haven for tourists. The social unrest in Greece in 2014 and 2015, sparked by austerity and Greece’s possible exit from the Euro, led to many tourists bypassing both the mainland and the surrounding Greek islands, like Kos and Corfu, which have been popular destinations for decades. And the more acute situation in countries like Egypt and Tunisia has made parts of north Africa a no-go zone for tourists and travellers. Not to mention the horror in Nice in recent months. So, as we head into 2017 Spain offers holidaymakers sun, sand and security, which is especially important for families and older travellers who put safety at the top of their criteria.
#3. Spanish football is a major attraction
The growing international popularity of La Liga (the Spanish equivalent of the Premier League), the successes of La Liga teams in the Champions League and the national teams international success is bringing tens of thousands of tourists to see Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC play.
With some of the world’s most talented footballers now playing in the Spanish league – global stars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale – Spain’s clubs have become major tourist magnets in recent years.
And there are spin off opportunities off the pitch for Spain’s super clubs. Barcelona’s museum at the Nou Camp is now the number one museum in Catalonia, attracting more visitors than traditional museums in the city like the Museu Picasso and the Fundació Joan Miró.
#4. Spain number one for gastro-tourism
Food is very big business for Spain with nearly 8 million visitors coming to the country primarily to enjoy the tapas and pinxtos in San Sebastian, or the seafood in Galicia, or Spain’s world-famous ham. Research shows each one of these 8 million tourists spends on average nearly 1,200 Euros.
Gastro-tourism is now extending beyond restaurants, cafes and food markets – such as La Boqueria in Barcelona or the San Miguel market in Madrid – with a new market emerging around cookery schools.
Whether you want to sit and eat, or stand and learn, Spain is now Europe’s number one destination for gastro-tourism. In surveys, Spain leads its culinary rivals of Italy, UK and even France by more than 20% as the place to go to for great food.
#5. Spanish tourist industry goes online
Online bookings are driving Spain’s tourism renaissance, with laptops and mobiles being key to the rise in sales.
Until now technology has not played a major part in Spain’s tourism industry, with many companies – especially the original tour operators from the 1960s and 1970s relying on traditional ways of doing business.
But today more and more travel companies have developed effective digital strategies to capture the huge number of tourists and travellers buying tickets and making reservations online. This switch to digital is expected to lead to double-digit growth in the number of online bookings in 2017.
#6. Spain is the most gay-friendly country on earth
In a global study of 40 countries around the world, including Germany, France, Canada, the US and UK, Spain was named the most gay-friendly, while Barcelona was ranked fifth in the Top 10 LGBT cities across Europe, after Amsterdam, London, Paris and Berlin, and in 2017 Madrid will host World Pride.
Spain’s positive and open embrace of the global LBGT community has seen huge economic rewards. Stats show LGBT travelers spend 40% more on holidays and City breaks compared to non LBGT holidaymakers. This, coupled with the fact that Spain has captured 10% of the lucrative LGBT global travel market, means that LBGT tourism is now worth 700 million Euros a year to the Spanish economy.
#7. Island life in Spain
The Balearic Islands are Spain’s number one tourist destination, with 25% of all visitors heading off-shore to Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza for a captivating mix of nature, relaxation and hedonism among some of the Meds most beautiful islands.
In 2016 a colossal 8.3 million people holidayed on the islands, with 1.9 million in June alone; an increase of 11% on the figure for June 2015. British travellers made up 33% of the 8.3 million, followed closely by the Germans.
#8. Visitors to Spain seek information on the web
More and more visitors to Spain are using the internet to get information and plan their trips. This is making content and travel blogs written by fellow tourists more important for the industry in Spain.
Fuelled by the TripAdvisor model, many modern day travellers now gauge their opinion, and therefore their decision to buy or not, on what other people thought about a certain hotel or restaurant. Equally, the internet is also being used to get practical travel advice, on currency, culture, language etc.
This switch to online, away from travel books and guides, is leading to a rise in the use of social networks in Spain, with tourists using platforms such as Minube and El Viajero Fisgón as a source of information.
Globalisation is creating a new breed of traveler; one that combines the traditional reasons for going abroad – business, pleasure and leisure. And Spain has been quick to spot the opportunities for establishing itself as a leading ‘Bleisure’ destination.
With the Spanish economy now picking up, and many international companies and investors returning to Spain, there is a growing market made up of professional and affluent visitors who want to mix their business trip with some holiday time. With Spain’s beautiful landscape and climate, museums, gastro-tourism, City breaks and world-famous football clubs, the country is perfected placed to capture more of the global ‘Bleisure’ market. Meliá, which has many upmarket hotels in major cities across Spain, is now using the term ‘Bleisure’ to describe this accommodation.
This new breed of traveller is changing the way hotels in Spain operate, with guests wanting both wi-fi and workstations and advice on the best local ‘hip’ bars and restaurants to go to.
#10. Classic family holidays in Spain
Last, but no means least, is the continued importance of the family holiday in Spain; all inclusive, bucket and spade holidays that Spain has delivered year in year out since the 1960s.
Despite all the positive twists and turns in the Spanish travel market, from the rise of gastro-tourism to LBGT to ‘Bleisure’, 5.8 million Brits still head off to sunny Spain each Summer. That’s a staggering 11% of the UK travel market.
Want to know what you’re missing?
If you’re one of the few that are missing out on what Spain has to offer then our team at Addition+ highly recommend checking out Basque Country Tourism. Happy ‘Bleisure’ travels.