Tourism Spain finally breaks 2019 record and leaves pandemic behind

by Lorraine Williamson
pre-pandemic tourost numbers

The tourists from abroad are completely back in Spain. The first months of 2023 have surpassed pre-pandemic numbers. Not only did more tourists come to Spain, they also spent more money. A promising start to the year for Spain. 

The Institute of Statistics (INE) published the figures for April and the first quarter of 2023 on Thursday. Both in terms of numbers of tourists and expenditure, the records set before the pandemic were finally surpassed. In April, 7.2 million people from abroad travelled to Spain to spend at least one night here. That is an increase of 18.5% compared to the same month last year and 1.2% more than in April 2019. 

Figures first months promising for 2023 

For the first four months of 2023, the numbers are still slightly behind the beginning of 2019. From January to April that year, 21.36 million foreign tourists came to Spain compared to 20.96 million tourists in the first four months from this year. 

Although the numbers are still slightly behind, the expenditure of this group of tourists does not lie. From January to April 2023, foreign tourists collectively spent no less than €25.6 billion, compared to almost €22.5 billion at the beginning of 2019. Now this seems like great news for the Spanish economy, but the reality is that a large part of this increase in spending is due to inflation. 

For example, the prices of accommodations have increased by an average of 24%. Those of package holidays by an average of 17% and the prices in the catering industry are also on average 15% higher than before the pandemic. 

Tourism remains an important driver of the Spanish economy 

However, if this trend continues, it seems that 2023 will be the year of several record breaking tourism, one of the biggest drivers of the Spanish economy. Minister Gómez of Industry, Trade and Tourism recently told the Spanish press. “Everything seems to indicate that the records from 2019 will be surpassed.” 

Cogesa Expats

It has been a fact for years that tourism is an important factor for the Spanish economy. In the first quarter, spending by foreigners in Spain led to a growth of 2.5 points of GDP. According to experts, the economy is expected to grow even more in the summer than in the first quarter, mainly thanks to the recovery in tourism in Spain. 

Which nationalities have Spain as their favourite destination? 

However, the recovery in tourism can be called special, especially since the number of British and Germans, the two nationalities that normally account for the most visits to Spain, is still below pre-pandemic levels. This is not an insignificant trend as these two groups are normally responsible for a third of the expenditure in the sector. Nevertheless, most tourists (more than 1.3 million in April) still come from the UK. They are followed by the French (1.05 million in April) and the Germans (1 million in April). 

Shift in nationalities foreign tourism 

In addition, tourism from Russia has become virtually nil in the first months of this year and visits from Asian countries are also lagging behind the normal level. However, tourists from other European countries and America significantly offset the figures of foreign tourism in Spain. In April, for example, 27% more tourists (compared to April 2019) came from the Netherlands to Spain. The percentage of tourists from America was also 24% higher than before the pandemic. 

Which places in Spain are your favourite? 

In April, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Andalucia were particularly favoured by tourists from abroad. Most tourists (over 83%) chose the plane to travel to Spain. A remaining 15% came by car, followed by boat (1.4%) and train (0.35%). 

Also read: Spanish tourism expects a record season but with a lack of staff

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