MADRID – Spain has reached an impressive tourism milestone in 2023, with more than 84 million visitors, surpassing the record figures of 2019. While the tourism sector is flourishing, the problem of mass tourism is growing in some cities.
Major players in the tourism industry claim that this is just a seasonal problem that occurs during peak season and in some places in the country. But the consequences of this overwhelming tourism are felt by the local population, where more than 25 tourists per inhabitant can be registered during the summer period.
Mass tourism is not an exclusive Spanish problem
According to José Luis Zoreda, the executive vice-president of the tourism organization Exceltur, mass tourism is not an exclusively Spanish problem. He points to other countries and cities such as Amsterdam, Florence, Venice and New York, which are already taking measures to reduce the pressure of tourism. He emphasizes that there are international movements to reduce the impact of tourism for specific reasons, and these will also reach Spain sooner or later.
Spanish regions affected
In Spain, certain regions are already confronted with extreme mass tourism. Peñíscola, located on the coast of the province of Castellón, leads the list of Spanish cities with the highest tourist surplus. With 25.4 tourists per inhabitant and 200,943 tourists annually, while the local population is only 7,882 inhabitants, Peñíscola is faced with the challenge of managing its environmental impact.
Albarracín, located in Teruel, is the second city with the highest tourist surplus in Spain. With only 990 inhabitants, it receives an average of 23,119 visitors annually, resulting in a ratio of 23.35 tourists per inhabitant.
Point of concern: Holiday homes
Another concern is the impact of holiday homes on local communities. Exceltur has highlighted the social problems created by uncontrolled growth and illegal rental of properties for tourist use. Current legislation has led to a growing flow of properties from residential use to tourist use, which has disrupted living conditions and the rental market.
Despite the challenges of mass tourism, Spain remains attractive to visitors. The number of international tourists who visited Spain in 2023 even exceeded pre-pandemic figures in 2019. The Ministry of Industry and Tourism estimates the number of tourists who visited the country in 2023 at as many as 84 million. Final figures have yet to be released.
The country also generated more than 108 billion euros in tourism revenue, with a growth of 17.4% compared to 2019 and 23.8% compared to the previous year. The government will no longer use 2019 data as a reference, as the pandemic is considered a “cycle already overcome.”