Spain sees big drop of British and German tourists compared to 2019

by Lorraine Williamson
British and German tourists

MADRID – Spain witnessed a decline in the number of British and German tourists this summer, compared to the figures for 2019.  

The data, released on Monday by Turespaña, showed that while July welcomed approximately 10.3 million foreign visitors through Spanish airports. That´s a return to pre-pandemic levels. However, the overall picture for the year has been less rosy. Almost two million fewer visitors from the UK and German visited Spain compared to the figures of 2019. 

Competitive pricing wars 

Competitive pricing wars from other Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Turkey, and the emerging vacation destination of Albania. This coupled with the implications of Brexit, have played a role in diverting tourists away from Spain. 

Despite the drop from two of its most significant source markets, the country celebrated an 11% increase in passengers from international airports compared to the same period last year and only a 1.62% decrease from 2019. The acting Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Héctor Gómez, praised this as evidence of a “sweet summer” for the sector. 

Significant markets for Spain 

However, underneath these encouraging figures lies a concern. Aena’s web data indicates that, during June and July, Spain recorded 724,000 fewer British and German tourists than in the summer kickoff of 2019, amounting to a cumulative loss of 1.79 million for the year so far. Moreover, both markets have historically been significant contributors to Spanish tourism. 

Record earmings 

While the tourism industry has managed to offset these losses with record earnings influenced by inflation, the dip in arrivals from Britain and Germany remains a point of contention. Factors such as price sensitivity among these tourists and increasing rates in popular destinations like the Balearic Islands have exacerbated the situation. The latter region witnessed a drop of 200,000 British and German visitors in June and July compared to 2019. 

Strategy to attract higher-income visitors 

The tourism sector’s response has been mixed. Large holiday hotel chains like Meliá and RIU are pivoting towards attracting higher-income visitors, moving away from Spain’s image as a budget destination for Central and Northern Europeans. This strategy includes initiatives like transforming Magaluf, once a hotspot for British party-goers, into a family-friendly location. On the flip side, smaller family-run establishments face potential challenges with the dwindling numbers from traditional markets. 

More British tourists to Canary Islands  

The pattern is observed across the Spanish coast. June and July saw regions like Andalucía, the Valencian Community, and Catalonia not reaching their 2019 British and German visitor figures. Only the Canary Islands surpassed its pre-pandemic numbers with over 1.3 million arrivals during these summer months. 

Spain is still a “leading destination” 

Spain welcomed 7.56 million visitors from the UK and Germany in June and July, down from 8.29 million in 2019. Of this, 4.78 million arrived from the UK and 2.79 million from Germany. 

Nonetheless, the Ministry emphasised the recovery of other vital markets, pointing out that the UK and Germany still accounted for 24.1% and 14% of air passengers, respectively. On the other hand, Italy, France, and the Netherlands also made notable contributions. In Gómez’s words, Spain remains a “leading destination,” with the industry experiencing record expenditure and tourist arrivals, signalling a shift towards quality and sustainability. 

Also read: British tourists swap Spain for new hotspots 

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