Blame it on the sunshine: Spain breaks summer tourism records

Brits don’t appear to be staying away because of Brexit but number of business trips down

Cristina Delgado
Alicante is one of Spain's most popular tourism destinations.
Alicante is one of Spain's most popular tourism destinations.Manuel Lorenzo (EFE)

Throughout Spain’s long economic crisis, international tourism has been a rare highlight, and the summer of 2016 was no exception.

Tourism numbers were up 10.2% year on year in September, hitting 7.9 million people. That comes on the back of healthy rises of 5.8% in August and 9.3% in June, and means the total figure for international visitors for the three months in question was up from 25.2 million in 2015 to 27.6 million this year.

The number of people making business trips to Spain slipped 4.8% in the first nine months of 2016

Critically, Brexit and a weaker pound don’t seem to have spelled the end to Britain’s long-term love affair with Spain, with two million people from the UK visiting these shores in September alone – 12.8% more than in the same month last year.

September was also a good month for hoteliers, with numbers up 12.1% year on year to 5.4 million overseas visitors, while the number of people staying in private holiday homes was up a huge 19.5% on September 2015, hitting nearly 430,000.

Looking at the longer-term trends, international tourist numbers for the nine months to the end of September also make for happy reading, with the figure up 10.1% to 60.3 million people.

Brits make up the largest group overall (14.4 million, up 13% on 2015) while France (9.3 million, up 9.6%) and Germany (8.9 million, up 4.3 percent) round out the top three.

With figures like these it should come as no surprise that the Spanish government is expecting 2016 to be another record-breaking year. Last week, tourism authorities said they estimated the number of international tourists would hit 74 million this year – six million higher than in 2015.

Fears of a Brexit-fuelled drop in tourism to Spain have yet to bear fruit

A geographic breakdown shows Catalonia is the country’s most popular destination, with nearly 14.5 million people visiting the northeastern region in the nine months to September, up 4.4% year on year. The next most popular region is the Balearics which welcomed 11.5 million visitors and chalked up a year-on-year rise of 10.6%.

Figures were also strong for the sun-and-sand fueled tourism of the Canary Islands, which saw 9.6 million international visitors to the end of September, a jump of 13.2% on the same period last year.

In terms of tourist habits, 2016 has seen strong growth in the number of international visitors arriving by plane (11.2%) while there has also been an 8.7% hike in numbers arriving by ship.

There is one slightly less positive piece of news, however. The number of people visiting Spain for business and professional reasons fell 4.8% in the first nine months of 2016 to 3.3 million. In September, the decline was even more marked with that figure down 28.2% year on year to 395,529.

English version by George Mills.

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