PROBLEMS that have been plaguing the tourist industry in 2003, such as the war in Iraq, the economic situation, the SARS virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and recent terrorist activity in some tourist areas, have not hindered the development of the industry in Spain. The country is approaching the end of the year having played host to some 51 million foreign visitors in 2003. According to figures released by the Secretary of State for Tourism, during the first ten months of the year, more than 72 million foreign visitors entered Spain, 65 percent of whom, that is to say 46.7 million, were tourists (those that spend at least one night in the country). Within the framework of this report, a percentage growth rate can be calculated of between one or two decimal points using figures from the previous year as a reference point. This enables the Spanish tourist industry to claim a new record for visitors. In terms of income, tourism represents 12 percent of the Spanish gross product, and forecasts at close of play this year indicated growth over and above four percent, surpassing the figure of last year of some 37'000 million euros. But during this year, some important changes have occurred in the sector, such as, amongst others, the disappearance of the controversial tourist tax which aimed to collect funds for conservationist projects in the Balearic Islands. The repeal was made law following a Popular Party election victory over the Socialist coalition in the Balearics which had introduced the tax. Another pertinent issue has been the development of an aggressive campaign on the part of central government, sometimes in collaboration with the autonomous communities, to promote Spain as a tourist destination in different client markets. For purposes of this programme, Turespaña, the government's promotional vehicle, was granted a budget of nearly 100 million euros.
It has been active mostly in the German market which, due to its internal economic crisis, has suffered significant downturns in terms of its tourist patronage of Spain, particularly in the Balearics and the Canary Islands. In spite of everything, Spain has yet again become the second favourite holiday destination in the world after France. Its success is as much in income levels as in the number of visitors. The development of a series of programmes begun in 2002 has kept level with forecasts.
As a result, the state-owned hotels which were being renovated last year, have now opened their doors .
Other projects for tourist development remain in the offing, in particular the idea of promoting all-year-round and cultural tourism.
Spain has the highest number of sites declared part of the Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO in the world.
This prestigious recognition is being included by central government in the fabric of its Cultural and Linguistic Promotional plan, already launched in 2002 and scheduled to run until 2004 with a budget of 70 million euros. The Plan will impact favourably on already-established cultural routes and centenary celebrations plans.
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