TOURISM

Spain remains Europeans’ top vacation destination, survey finds

British, French, Dutch, Italians and Swedish all prefer the Spanish ‛costas’

Tourists pack La Carihuela beach in Torremolinos (Málaga).
Tourists pack La Carihuela beach in Torremolinos (Málaga).GARCÍA-SANTOS

The British, the French, the Italians, the Dutch and the Swedish all have their own favorite vacation styles: some like hotels, others prefer apartment rentals; some return to the same place year after year, while the more adventurous types try something new every season.

But they all have something in common: most of them are planning to spend their 2015 summer holidays on the Spanish costas.

Despite its decades-long relationship with European holidaymakers, Spain is still viewed by many as an exotic destination with an attractively different lifestyle.

One out of every 10 Spaniards has never spent any vacation time abroad

A study conducted by consultancy YouGov asked 7,562 people in seven European countries where they were planning to spend their summer vacation this year.

Of those who mentioned a European destination, Spain came up most often: 25 percent of British respondents said they were coming here, as did 28 percent of French, 17 percent of Germans, 16 percent of Swedes, 18 percent of Italians and 15 percent of the Dutch.

Broken down by regions, the Canary Islands seem more attractive to tourists from the UK, Italy and Sweden, while Catalonia is the destination of choice for French and German visitors.

“Spain’s success can be explained through several factors. Some of these are structural, such as the weather,” explains Miguel Mirones, president of the Institute for Quality Tourism in Spain. “But there is also the experience: Europeans still view Spain as a very different destination from the rest of Europe, as a place with a particular lifestyle.”

Adding to this are temporary issues such as the strength of the dollar, which encourages Europeans to remain within the euro zone, and political instability in some emerging tourist destinations, which makes Spain more attractive because it is viewed as a safe country.

Spaniards favor hotels. The survey shows that the Spanish and the French are the ones who vacation at home the most. They are also the most likely never to have left their countries. One out of every 10 Spaniards has never spent any vacation time abroad. Another trait that defines Spanish tourists is their preference for hotels. Over half of Spaniards would rather stay in a hotel –  the highest rate among all nationalities questioned in the survey, which was commissioned by apartment rental website Airbnb.

Germans draw on their experience. Germans are mostly interested in the Balearic Islands, the Canaries and Andalusia, in that order. They also tend to spend their summer holidays abroad, especially the older ones. Around 36 percent of German senior citizens will spend time outside their own borders this year, compared with 13 percent of retired Spaniards.

The British want sun. Britons love to spend their summers on the Spanish costas. Half of them said they choose their destination based on the weather. Industry Ministry figures show that two out of every 10 tourists who come to Spain are British. Their favorite regions are the Canaries, the Balearics and Andalusia.

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The French like their ‛appartements.’ Visitors from France favor apartment rentals the most: 23 percent prefer them over hotels. The French represent the second-largest tourist group in Spain, even though 40 percent of them will stay within their own borders this summer.

The traveling Dutch. Around 98 percent of Dutch citizens have spent at least one summer outside their own country. Nine out of 10 are planning to leave again in 2015. They are also the most likely to try different destinations: 71 percent said they would never go back to the same place twice.

The Swedish, kings of downtime. The Swedish topped the list of those who go away the most: 59 percent said they would take three or more rest periods. They also have a fondness for returning to the same places: four out of every 10 said they would go back to where they went last year. Around 97 percent have spent a summer abroad at least once.

Italians: better at home. Italian tourists are a lot like Spanish ones: they also do a lot of domestic travel, particularly in Sicily, Apulia and Sardinia. Those who do get out say they enjoy the variety: 46 percent said that their main goal was to try new things.