There may be more tourists than ever, but are they spending less?

14-06-2016Miquel A. Cañellas

While Spain's tourism industry is anticipating its best ever summer, the Exceltur alliance for touristic excellence is warning that there will be a fall in tourist spending in real terms.

The reasons for this summer's boom are well understood - mostly all to do with instability in other destinations - and this boom has generated, says Exceltur, an additional 90,000 jobs in Spain's tourism sector since January, which is an increase of almost 6% over employment growth last year.

Jose Luis Zoreda, the executive vice-president of Exceltur, says that demand is principally coming from outside Spain, as the domestic market has slowed this year, and he adds that 2.2 million more tourists are being attracted to Spain, while Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey had lost 4.6 million visitors between them up to May.

In total, he predicts that there will be 6.5 million more tourists in all (topping 74 million), of which more than three and a half million will have been "borrowed" from other destinations. Total spending, he believes, will rise by 2,700 million euros, of which more than half will be as a result of unanticipated demand for Spanish holidays. Despite this, he points to a fall of more than seven per cent in spending from January to May and also to a rise of only 4.7% in total revenue, while the level of tourist arrivals was up by 13%.

Zoreda argues that the growth for the whole year is not sustainable. With 30% of it estimated to stem from "borrowed" tourists, the situation can quickly be reversed if competitor destinations are again deemed to be safe. He stresses the need, therefore, for the industry to focus on giving value and investing and not getting carried away with short-term gains.

On Brexit, he says that the impact has thus far been minimal and that were it to be the case that British tourism declines, it would be replaced by tourists from other markets. Spanish domestic tourism has slowed after a strong start to the year, but he doesn't consider this to be worrying. There is evidence to suggest that Spaniards were delaying holiday plans until the election at the end of June, and travel agencies have indeed reported a pick-up in activity since the election.

Unsurprisingly, the Balearics is identified as being one of the most popular destinations for tourists, along with the Canaries, Andalusia, Valencia as well as Murcia and the Basque Country.

On political matters, Zoreda argues that because of the importance of the tourism industry, this should be reflected by greater emphasis at national government level. Therefore, he wants there to be a tourism minister who is directly linked to the prime minister's own ministry.

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