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Spain, on its way to a historic year in number of tourists and spending

One of the main economic pillars of the country is heading towards the completion of what would clearly be a historic year.

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Spain, on its way to a historic year in number of tourists and spending

One of the main economic pillars of the country is heading towards the completion of what would clearly be a historic year. And 2023 has all the ingredients, barring major setbacks, to become the best year ever for the tourism sector. The figures encourage us to think so, but not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively: it is quite likely to close the year surpassing the visitor record, a fact that would not have to be eminently positive if it were not because, in parallel, it is equally likely to reach the highest spending figure.

The data published yesterday by the National Statistics Institute are what allow optimism to emerge. Between January and October of this year, 74,707,499 foreign tourists arrived in Spain. This means that, for the first time since confinement, the data for 2019 has been surpassed, a year that is an absolute reference for the sector, since the record number of visitors was reached: 83.7 million. Nothing and no one seems to predict that the rate of arrival of foreign visitors is going to relax, in fact, quite the opposite: the Corporate Association of Specialized Travel Agencies (Acave) estimates that reservations in December will increase between 5% and 15%. % compared to the same month last year. Thus, it is possible to close the year maintaining a great rhythm.

The spending variant also shows an excellent balance. So far this year, it has stood at 94,916 million euros, which represents a qualitative leap with pre-pandemic spending, since it is 16% higher than in 2019. And not only in overall terms: in the More precise statistics, the one that takes into account the average expenditure per visitor per day, a clear increasing trend can be seen. The average so far this year is 177 euros per person per night, well above the average for the same period in other years.

There are two reasons that explain these data, as well as two possible interpretations of them. Starting with the reasons, the first and most obvious is inflation, which is already beginning to subside but is not doing so as much in certain tourist products. The second is that tourism companies with a presence in Spain have carried out a process of redefining their brands, more in search of the quality of the service than the number of people to whom they can provide it, a strategy that leads to a inevitable price rises.

As for the interpretations, there is one that is extremely positive and another that is the complete opposite. The first is that the price increase does not in any way diminish the desire of foreign visitors to travel to Spain, especially taking into account that the vast majority of them come from countries with higher incomes, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Furthermore, the weight of the American tourist, who makes large outlays, is increasing. And to all of this we must also include the definitive recovery of the Asian visitor, who has had severe restrictions on mobility and who sooner rather than later will travel again with the same intensity with which he did before the pandemic.

On the other hand, the negative interpretation is that such a situation may be unsustainable over time. It must be taken into account that the average expenditure per person per day has increased by 14% since 2018. It is true that the Spanish business community wants to avoid competing on price, but one of the attractions of Spanish tourism is that, at least in its sun and beach modality.

Price pressure will continue at least through this Christmas season. In its statement yesterday, Acave spoke of price increases of up to 25% compared to last year's rates for services such as airlines and hotels. A question that should not be lost sight of.

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