Could Spain’s thriving tourism industry be coming to a standstill?

A new report has forecast a fall in visits from the country’s main tourist markets, the UK, Germany and France

Beach in the popular tourist city Benidorm.
Beach in the popular tourist city Benidorm.Mònica Torres

In 2017, Spain received a record-breaking number of tourists with 82 million people visiting the country. Of this figure, more than half – 42 million – came from Spain’s biggest tourist markets: the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

But a new report from the Spanish Institute of Tourism (Turespaña) is predicting that these markets will experience “only moderate growth” or even a “decline or stagnation” in the third quarter, the most important of the year.

Spain must compete for distinction, quality, not for price

Exceltur vice president José Luis Zoreda

According to the Outlook Report for International Tourism published this month, tourist arrivals are expected to experience “moderate or stagnate growth,” tourist spending “moderate growth” and overnight stays a “decline or stagnation.”

The final outcome will depend on Spain’s biggest tourist markets but these have the “least promising” forecasts.

German tourists, for instance, are expected to make 5.1% fewer overnight stays, despite a 3.1% increase in arrivals and 2.4% rise in spending.

Turespaña estimates the number of British tourists will fall 4.2% in the third quarter but predicts a rise of 5.3% in tourist spending and 1.9% in overnight stays.

The outcome for France is more positive, with tourist visits expected to increase 5.7%, spending by 8.1% and overnight stays by 5%. Overall, Turespaña has forecast visitors will rise by 2.4%, spending by 5.3% and 1.1% in overnight stays.

Turespaña’s predictions, however, have missed the mark before. In July, it estimated that there would be 29.4 million overnight stays in Spain. But according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the figure was 28.5 million – almost a million fewer than what was forecast. This represents a fall of 11.4% from German tourists and a 2.5% drop in the British market.

The INE has not yet published its results on tourist arrivals and spending in July. But according to the report from the first quarter of 2018, German tourist visits fell by 5.1% to 5.1 million and spent €5.2 billion – a drop of 3.15% less.

In the first quarter of 2018, German tourists fell by 5.1% to 5.1 million

British tourists dropped by 2% to 8.4 million and spent €7.7 billion, a rise of 1.16%, compared to the 14.56% rise in the first half of last year.

Around 4.8 million French people visited Spain in the first quarter, indicating moderate growth of just 1.43%. Spending increased by 3.9% to €2.9 billion, which was less than half of the 8.49% growth recorded in June, 2017.

José Luis Zoreda, vice president of the tourism lobby Exceltur, blames the fall in tourist visits, particularly from the British and German markets, on the “vertiginous” recovery of the tourism industry in Turkey, which he says has been benefited from the fall in the Turkish lira. Zoreda warns against “falling into defeatism” or “getting nervous” about a possible decline in the sector and argues the industry should “not fall into the temptation” of lowering prices – a trend he has already detected in large-scale wholesalers who sell products a year ahead of time.

“Spain must compete for distinction, quality, not for price,” he said.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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