Spanish tourist sector on track for “historic” year, minister says

Record numbers of overseas visitors flock to Spain in August, while average spending also increases

Agencies El País
Madrid - Sep 23, 2013 - 19:25
Enjoying the summer at the beach in San Sebastián.
Enjoying the summer at the beach in San Sebastián.EFE

One area of the flagging Spanish economy that continues to motor along is tourism, with the country attracting both record overseas visitors in August as well as overnight stays in hotels.

According to the Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry’s latest FRONTUR survey, the number of foreign arrivals last month climbed 7.1 percent to 8.3 million, buoyed by a surge in Russian and Nordic visitors. As a result, the number of overnight stays in hotels in the month hit a record 42 million, an increase of 3.5 percent from a year earlier.

As a tourist destination, Spain has benefitted from wariness about rival markets such as Turkey, where political tensions prevail, and Egypt, which is experiencing a spiral of street violence.

In the first eight months of the year, 42.3 million foreigners visited Spain, an increase of 4.5 percent over the same period a year earlier. The biggest rise was posted by Russian visitors, whose numbers in the January-August period rose by 30.1 percent.

However, one notable area that missed out on the encouraging trend was Madrid where the number of visitors fell 22.2 percent in August and was down 7.7 percent in the first eight months of the year at 2.7 million The main reason behind this was a drop in the number of visitors from Italy and Latin America, while the number of visitors from Britain and Portugal increased. The commissioner for employment, tourism and culture in the Madrid regional government attributed the downturn to a “crisis” at Iberia, a rise in airport taxes, the closure of some convention centers in the city and a protest marches in the Spanish capital

The rise in overnight stays was aided by the containment of hotel prices, which fell across the country, with the exception of the Balearic and Canary Islands and the Basque Country. For the country as a whole, the average rise in prices was a modest 0.7 percent. Average revenue per room in August rose 1.8 percent from a year earlier to 85.6 euros.

Hotel occupancy rates also increased by 2.7 points in August from a year earlier to 72.2 percent. The occupancy rate in the Balearic Islands in the month was 92 percent, more than double the rate of only 41.7 percent in Madrid.

Providing advanced figures, Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister José Manuel Soria said Monday that foreign tourists spent over 40.4 billion euros in the first eight months of the year, an increase of 7 percent from a year earlier. The minister said the performance of the vital tourist industry in August alone was “historic” with spending by foreign visitors up 12 percent at 8.2 billion euros.

Soria said the increase was due to both higher numbers of visitors as well as a 2.0-percent rise in average spending per person and an increase of 2.1 percent in average daily outlays. The minister said if the favorable forecasts for the rest of the 2013 materialize, “this will probably be a record year for the tourist sector.”

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