Spain sets new foreign tourist arrival record for sixth consecutive year

A total of 82.8 million people visited the country in 2018, and spent more on average than in 2017

Javier Salvatierra
Tourists in Seville.
Tourists in Seville.paco puentes

For the sixth year in a row, Spain has set a new record for foreign tourist arrivals. There were 82.8 million international visitors last year, a 1.1% rise from 2017, according to new figures released on Friday by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

There is renewed competition from destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia and Greece

Despite the emergence of competing destinations and some adverse weather, there was a surge in arrivals in the last quarter of the year, particularly in December.

And figures show that tourist spending grew at an even faster pace, for a total expenditure of nearly €89.9 billion, representing a 3.3% rise from 2017.

The numbers come close to the ideal situation that the government and the tourism industry are aiming for: greater spending by tourists, but not so many arrivals as to create saturation, stretch public services thin and lead to local expressions of tourist-phobia.

The Industry, Trade and Tourism Ministry noted that average daily spending by individual tourists grew 7.4% to €146. This figure is a better approximation of what tourists actually spend in Spain, as the total expenditure figures also include plane fare, which is paid in the country of origin.

Tourism from the United States grew 11.8%

As for the average duration of the stay, it went down from 7.7 days in 2017 to 7.4 days in 2018.

The growth rate for international arrivals has also slowed down considerably: 1.1% from 2017 to 2018, compared with 8.7% from 2016 to 2017. This is partly due to renewed competition from destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia and Greece, which attracted more visitors from Britain and Germany, the two main source countries of tourism to Spain.

In 2018, there were 11.4 million German tourists in Spain, a 4.1% drop from the previous year, while the number of British visitors declined by 1.6% to 18.5 million. Tourism from Scandinavian countries dropped 0.7% to 5.7 million.

But these drops were offset by a jump in visitors from other countries. Tourism from the United States grew 11.8% to reach close to three million. There was also a 6.3% rise in Russian visitors, who numbered 1.2 million.

English version by Susana Urra.

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