Spain closes 2022 with over 80 million international air passengers

by Lorraine Williamson
international air passengers

More than 80 million international air passengers arrived in Spain by plane in 2022. That is 85% of the number of travellers who arrived in 2019, according to data released on Wednesday by the Spanish Tourism Institute, Turespaña. 

This made 2022 the year of tourism’s recovery, according to Spanish Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto. ‘We were able to see this reflected in the excellent employment figures announced on Wednesday, in the record number of visits within the tourism sector, and in the numbers of international passengers who visited Spain. We therefore foresee that 2023 will be a record year,’ she stressed. According to Miguel Sanz, director of Turespaña, the edition of the Spanish holiday fair FITUR 2023 confirms the positive trend of tourism activity in Spain. Tourism GDP in Spain in 2022 exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 1.4% to over €159 billion. 

Ireland showed biggest recovery after pandemic 

Especially in December, the number of international passengers coming to Spain increased. The countries that showed the biggest recovery compared to pre-pandemic figures are: Ireland, with 140,602 passengers (up 14.2% on 2019), followed by France, with 492,101 passengers (up 5.8%) and Portugal, with 216,833 passengers (up 4.0% on the same month in 2019). A total of 2.2 million passengers came from Ireland, 6.5 million from France and 2.6 million from Portugal this year. 

Most international air passengers from UK 

The UK was the largest supplier of passengers in December (1,158,536), accounting for 20.1% of the total share of arrivals, followed by Germany with 726,697 (12.6%) and Italy with 532,877 (9.3%). 

18.5 million British passengers flew to the Canary Islands, but German passengers also flocked to the archipelago en masse (11.9 million in 2022). Italians (7.1 million throughout last year) mainly visited Madrid and Catalonia. 

Biggest growth for Catalonia 

According to Turespaña’s data, Madrid was the region with the most arrivals in December (1.6 million, 29.1% of the total share) and also in 2022 (18.2 million, or 22.7% of the total number of autonomous regions), followed by the Canary Islands (1.3 million in December and 18.2 in 2022) and Catalonia (1.1 million in the last month of the year and 15.8 million in the whole year). 

Of the six autonomous communities with the most arrivals, Catalonia had the highest annual growth (57.8% compared to December 2021). Only the Canary Islands also saw a recovery compared to December 2019 (6.9%). 

Low-cost airlines popular 

Of the total number of passengers arriving in Spain by plane, 56.2% flew with a low-cost airline, 3% less than in 2019. 43.8% chose a traditional airline, 7.5% less than before the pandemic. 

Although the number of international air passengers does not necessarily equal international tourists, as it also includes residents of Spain returning from an international airport, the vast majority of them do appear to be tourists. 

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