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How Spain’s Valencia region is trying to attract US tourists

Authorities want to set up a direct flight between New York and the popular Mediterranean destination as a way to tap further into a growing market with high purchasing power

A passenger in Valencia airport in eastern Spain.
A passenger in Valencia airport in eastern Spain.AENA
Rafa Burgos

Spain’s Valencia region, located on the country’s eastern coast, has set out to attract tourism from the United States. Although this Mediterranean region is already a popular tourist destination, Americans are still a minority market, and what’s more, they are travelers with high purchasing power who, according to the latest tourism studies, have recently been focusing on the purchase of real estate and the search for cruise ship bases.

The European market, especially the British one, is already well consolidated, and America has become the new focus where Valencia authorities are trying to find new visitors to improve on the record arrival figures achieved in 2023. The Valencia Department of Tourism is aiming to grow the airports of Alicante-Elche Miguel Hernández and Manises (Valencia), to pave the way for a direct flight linking the U.S. to one of those airports, most likely the one in Valencia.

The current lack of this route places the Comunidad Valenciana at a disadvantage with regard to its main competitors in Spain, since Madrid, Barcelona, Mallorca, Tenerife and Málaga (the latter since last year) already have it. According to a source at the tourism department, the goal is not just to make the trip easier for the occasional tourist, but also for the growing number of retirees whose presence has been detected, especially Latinos with a residence in Florida and who want to purchase homes in Spain, “where they get more value for their retirement money and they can enjoy a high level of security.”

The latest report on the U.S. market collected by the Valencia regional government, using data up to July 2023, shows that visitors from the U.S. preferably choose the province of Valencia, staying mostly in hotels and spending an average of €2,257 ($2,452) per trip. In accumulated figures for July, 86,765 tourists spent €199 million ($216m). Most visitors were there for leisure and stayed nearly two weeks, according to the tourism department. However, the growth of this market in the region is still below not only its main competitors, but also the Spanish average. Figures for mid-2023 show that the number of Americans passing through the three provinces (Valencia, Alicante and Castellón) increased 15.9% year-on-year, compared with the Balearic Islands (101.8%), Andalusia (57%), Catalonia (52%) and Madrid (37.6%).

A report by Turespaña, the national tourism institute, notes that except for the global threat of inflation, the U.S. economy is consolidating and 83% of Americans, according to a survey by Destination Analysts cited by Turespaña, plan to travel during this year. The overwhelming majority will remain within the country’s borders, but those who prefer an international destination mentioned Europe as a priority. The report indicates that Italy and the United Kingdom are at the top of the list, with Spain in fifth place. On the other hand, Spain placed third in terms of satisfaction indexes.

Data from the tourism institute show an acceleration of the market between January and August 2023 that surpassed 2019 figures. Around 2.6 million travelers departing from a U.S. airport came to Spain, where they spent a collective €5.2 billion ($5.6b), numbers that make the United States the sixth largest country of origin for tourism, but fourth in terms of spending.

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