Considering the relative size of the economies and how important tourism is to each, then this is quite a surprise. That Spain will this year overtake the US as a tourist destination is an incredible achievement for a country which has had great economic and political upheaval in recent times. For those of us in the UK it probably comes as no surprise, the British have been holidaying in Spain in their millions for decades. Indeed many of us spend large parts of the year, relaxing in the Winter Sun happy that we’ve learnt how to watch BBC iPlayer in Spain too.
Spain, where tourism accounts for about 11% of the economics, has seen a spike in international visitors partly because of security concerns in other popular vacation destinations like Egypt and Turkey. Although the US is still popular just like American culture via US DNS and Netflix, the strong dollar and relatively expensive airfare cost means that it’s not experiencing the same growth as some of the European countries. Preliminary data released late on Wednesday showed the number of visitors coming in Spain rose 8.9% year-on year to 82 million tourists, that makes Spain the world’s second most visited country after France and push the US into third position, this was from a Reuters report. Figures showed that tourist spending also hit a brand new record in 2017, rising 12.4 percent in the year from 2016. According to final data for the first 11 months of 2017, too published on Wednesday tourists remained Spain’s biggest group of visitors from nationality, accounting for 18 million tourists up 7 percent from a year before.
Catalonia remained the most visited region of Spain in 2017, despite two strikes at tourist haunts in August which left 16 people dead and more than 100 people. Tourism from the region’s capital Barcelona dipped slightly after the strikes, then dropped in October following a liberty vote prompted scenes of police violence and mass protests, but it’s since rebounded. Tourism has also benefited from a boom in leasing flats outside to tourists through internet platforms like Airbnb. This has made a combination of cheap airfares and affordable accommodation which makes Spain an extremely attractive holiday destination.
Nevertheless, this has prompted a backlash in favorite destinations like Barcelona, Palma de Majorca or San Sebastian as locals complain of a drop in long term rentals and costs. The sector will continue to grow in the coming years due to expected economic improvement in visitors home nations and increased flights and destinations, the tourism association Exceltur said on Thursday. Spanish tourist companies expect a 5.6% growth in their earnings and 5.3% growth in their profits in 2018, Exceltur vice president Jose Luis Zoreda told a news conference. But, general sector growth might slightly lighten this year to 3.3% year-on year by an annual expansion of 4.4% in 2017 due in part to many tourists returning to destinations in North Africa and Turkey, he added.