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Americans are back in Spain: Tourist numbers rise following end of pandemic restrictions

Catalonia and Madrid continue to be the preferred destinations for visitors from Spain’s sixth-most important market

Tourists with suitcases on Carretas street in Madrid.
Tourists with suitcases on Carretas street in Madrid.Claudio Álvarez
Selina Bárcena

In the middle of the high season for tourism, and with Spain’s summer figures not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. market is surging. To June of this year,1.8 million Americans had visited Spain, 17.4% more than in the same period in 2022, when coronavirus restrictions were still in place, according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE).

Despite the fact that the U.S. is not among the top countries of origin for visitors to Spain — it occupies the sixth position behind others such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany — 546,093 U.S. nationals arrived in June alone, the best numbers since 2015, when the INE began to keep records on this data point. Their preferred regional destinations are Catalonia (the choice for 41%) and Madrid, with 27% of tourists heading to the capital. “We are a safe, sustainable and modern destination, and the American tourists, with a high purchasing power and high quality standards, choose us as one of the favorite countries to enjoy their vacation days in Europe,” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Héctor Gómez.“The U.S. market is of paramount importance for our tourism sector.”

However, Spain is not the preferred EU country for Americans, whose top European destinations continue to be the United Kingdom, France and Italy. But the large size of the U.S. market and its margin for growth make it a key asset for Spain’s tourism industry: throughout 2022 tourist volume from the U.S. increased by 249.5%, spending by 250.8% and overnight stays by 239.6%. During 2022, there was a progressive and growing recovery of U.S. spending in Spain compared to 2019 figures. The average expenditure per person and trip amounted to €1,874, with an average daily expenditure of €266.

The proportion of U.S. tourists as a share of total visits to Europe is also growing. Between January and March, 2,947,720 American travelers arrived on the continent, which was the top overseas destination for Americans with a share of 14.5%. At the beginning of 2022, visitor numbers remained low due to restrictions in place caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus, including negative Covid tests for travel, vaccination certificates and voluntary quarantines. Spain maintained border controls and negative Covid tests for travelers from outside the European Union until October 2022.

Holiday destination

For 54.5% of Americans, travel is one of their priorities when designing their budgets. Among those who come to Spain, 86% say that their main motivation is leisure. The main activities they carried out were visits to cities (65%), cultural visits (62%) and shopping (55%), according to Turespaña, the state agency in charge of marketing the country. As for accommodation, 80% stayed at hotels and 10% in apartment rentals. Americans also like to organize their own trips and only 16% hired a tour package.

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