Tourists on the beach of Fuerteventura. | EFE


At the end of September 1971, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development presented its annual report and revealed that, in 1970, Spain was the leading country in Europe in terms of revenue from tourism and the second in the world. In the space of ten years, the 1959 Stabilisation Plan having provided the real momentum for setting Spain on the road to economic turnaround, France had been relegated to number two in Europe. Only the United States stood between Spain and world domination.

The pace of tourism economy development was truly astonishing. Ten years previously, Spain could only have dreamed of being in this situation. Ever since 1970, Spain has vied with France to be Europe’s top tourism dog. The world domination was never a possibility, as the US is way bigger - 214 billion dollars in 2019 versus Spain’s 79.7 billion. But being Europe’s number one and the world’s number two (which was the case in 2019) just emphasises how important tourism is to Spain. How important it has been for fifty and more years.

In January this year, El País published an article that used what now seems like a perversely prophetic metaphor. “The coronavirus crisis has devastated the tourism sector in Spain, creating a kind of volcanic fissure of considerable dimensions that oozes lava, destroying almost everything in its path.”

As if things couldn’t get worse, but there will be recovery for La Palma, as there will be for Spain’s tourism, though there are times when the politicians need reminding of this domination.