Why the British conservative press is saying “¡Viva Espana!”

The lack of stability in other Mediterranean countries is seeing a boost in UK tourism

British tourists in Torremolinos (Málaga).
British tourists in Torremolinos (Málaga).garcía-santos

“¡Viva Espana!” screamed the headline on the webpage of the UK newspaper The Daily Mail a few weeks ago, surprising those who are more accustomed to the tabloid’s usual menu of xenophobia and anti-European sentiment.

But xenophobia is relative, and the Mail, despite its limitations when it comes to the language of Cervantes, distinguishes between Spain and other countries that have the bad luck to be located on the other side of the Channel – countries such as Greece, Tunisia and Egypt.

Thousands of Britons have instead opted for a safer, more classic option: “Siestas and fiesta,” under the Spanish sun

That particular headline was celebrating the fact that Spaniards are making the most of the disasters brought about by Merkel, Tsipras and Islamist terrorism. According to the newspaper, which is not always the most trustworthy, thousands of Britons who were considering taking their summer vacations this year on Greek, Egyptian or Tunisian beaches have instead opted for a safer, more classic option: “Siestas and fiesta,” under the Spanish sun.

This time the Mail got it right. The data available from the Spanish government, the British Embassy in Madrid and tour operators in the UK show the harsh reality of how the economic crisis in Greece and the murderous attacks against Western tourists in Tunisia and Egypt have led to greater revenues from tourism for Spain. Not only have the number of flights and visitors from Great Britain risen this year, compared to 2014, but also, the money spent by UK visitors, who make up a quarter of foreign tourism to Spain, has gone up by 7.4%.

Tour operators also confirm that customers are opting for Spain, instead of the more turbulent Mediterranean countries. According to the British Embassy, the number of airports in the UK with direct flights to Spain has gone from 26 in 2014 to 30 this year.

The strength of the pound and the relative safety that is offered by Spain is encouraging more Britons to come here this year” British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley

“Clearly, the strength of the British pound and the relative safety that is offered by Spain is encouraging more Britons to come here this year,” the British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, told EL PAÍS this week. Manley added that the sale of Spanish properties to Britons had also gone up in 2015, consolidating a deep-rooted phenomenon: Spain is not only the foreign country that’s most-visited by Britons, but also the most popular choice when it comes to investing in property.

As if the deep-rooted romance that the British have with Spain was not already ardent enough, both Ambassador Manley and the UK press seem determined to provide more propaganda for Spanish tourism. When speaking to EL PAÍS, Manley waxed lyrical about “the natural beauty, the rich history, the splendid gastronomy and climate,” all of which made Spain the “number one” tourist destination for his fellow countrymen. The Mail has also done its bit with thanks to the “Viva España” article, but another major conservative paper, The Daily Telegraph, also published an article this month entitled “Five reasons why Spain is still the perfect summer destination.” Two of those reasons were that Spain “has it all,” and offers “something for everyone.” The other three where the availability of places to stay, affordable prices and its close location.

We can also add to this that Spain continues to be a country where the economic crisis has not left the whole society in chaos, and that one can still go to the beach without any fear that a fanatic will start shooting at you with an AK-47. While the good siesta lasts, the fiesta won’t be over.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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