Why are the UK warning British tourists of travelling to Spain?

by Lorraine Williamson
British tourists
nederlandse orthopeed

The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel advice for British tourists. Remarkably, British travellers considering a trip to Spain are warned that they could face riots and violence in major cities. Not to mention the risk of ‘balconing’. 

According to the UK government, ‘there may be demonstrations, political rallies or manifestations in Spain, especially in cities’. Therefore, they advise following the instructions of ‘the police and local authorities’.  

Moreover, the UK Foreign Office states that although the vast majority of demonstrations are peaceful, ‘there is a risk of isolated incidents of unrest or violence’. Therefore, it urges its citizens to remain vigilant and leave areas where demonstrations are taking place quickly if things become chaotic.  

‘Protests by thousands of Spanish citizens’ 

British newspaper The Sun picked up on this warning, stating that the Foreign Office’s concern was due to demonstrations by “thousands of Spanish citizens, who have taken part in protests across the country calling for an increase in wages and pensions in line with inflation”.  

Madrid and Barcelona 

The warning applies especially to Madrid, where ‘people have taken to the streets to voice their grievances against the worsening cost-of-living crisis’.  

Meanwhile, the British press warns of pro-independence marches in Barcelona, where ‘activists have blocked the city’s airport and main roads’. A news report they, surprisingly, illustrate with the following description: ‘Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets for pro-independence protests in Barcelona’. The newspaper further adds that ‘tourists should take note that the picturesque cities of Barcelona and Madrid can be very different at the moment’. A warning that seems somewhat alarmist and far from reality.  

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The Foreign Office is also warning British tourists wishing to travel to Spain about ‘balconing’, albeit in a rather peculiar way. On the UK government’s official website, the section on ‘falls from height’ states that ‘there have been a number of very serious accidents (some fatal) resulting from falls from height, including from balconies‘. Many of these incidents involved British citizens. With dire consequences for involved and loved ones. The advice is: ‘Do not take unnecessary risks near balconies or other high places, especially if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs’.  

Blue sharks 

This is not the first time Spain has been put in a negative spotlight by the UK government. Whenever there are problems in the UK, attention is shifted abroad. Often, Spain is the fall guy. For example, every time a blue shark appears on Benidorm beach, a horror scenario for the British. But also when Spain takes measures that affect foreign citizens. 

This is how the Spanish tourism industry reacts 

As on other occasions, they have played down the issue, arguing, among other things, that British tourists know Benidorm very well. In fact, British press reports against Spain seem increasingly unpopular with travellers. So the UK government’s warning seems to have had no effect on Britons’ intention to continue travelling to Spain, especially to favourite destinations like Benidorm or the Costa Blanca.  

Manager of Visit Benidorm, Leire Bilbao, indicated that these warnings from the UK government “do not affect sun and beach destinations, not for Benidorm, nor for other municipality on the Costa Blanca and other areas” and downplayed the importance of the recommendations.  

However, general secretary of the hotel industry employers’ association Hosbec, Nuria Montes, also spoke out: ‘It’s a very general warning’ from the UK government aimed mainly at the big cities. On the Costa Blanca, tourists feel safe. It is clear to the tourism industry that Britons who choose Benidorm or the Costa Blanca do so based on their own criteria and their own experience of the destination.  

Figures still speak for themselves 

The figures confirm this: the British are still the majority in Benidorm today. According to the latest data from Hosbec, the Spanish market accounts for 46.8% compared to 53.2% of the international market. Of the total, 40.9% comes from the UK. 


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