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Beautiful cities in Spain struggling to stop British tourists going elsewhere

Tourism in Spain has suffered since the pandemic, with officials sharing concerns over the decline in visitors to mainland resorts and cities like Barcelona and Madrid. While islands like Tenerife, Majorca and Ibiza are more popular than ever, getting tourists to other parts of the country is proving trickier.

Spain welcomes millions of tourists each year, with a large proportion of those coming from the UK and Germany.

According to local figures, the number of tourists visiting from the UK and Germany was just 26.7million out of a total of 79.9million in 2023. For the first eleven months of 2019, in comparison, the combined total was 28 million out of a total of 79.4million.

The Balearics, meanwhile, which include Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza, saw an increase in tourists in 2023, with those coming from the UK and Germany totalling 8.2million compared to 8.1million in 2019.

As for the Canary Islands, Tenerife led the islands in tourist numbers in 2023, attracting 5.6 million visitors, followed by Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura. La Palma lagged behind with only 81,422 international tourists, a significant decrease from 2019 figures.

Overall, the Canary Islands’ airports saw a total of 48.4 million passengers, including domestic tourism, an 11.4 per cent increase from the previous year, with 439,016 operations, 7.9 per cent more than last year.

For Spain as a whole, Brits made up the largest proportion of tourists.

Although officials feared the cost of living crisis would deter tourists, figures have shown tourism numbers remaining stable in the Balearics.

For mainland Spain, tourists visiting from France have increased by over 200,000 people from November 2019 to 2023. The loss of UK tourists has been made up by other countries, including an increase in travellers from the US visiting Spain.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, travel expert Eoghan Corry said: “The numbers reflect a couple of trends in the post-pandemic landscape of Spanish tourism.

“All tourism is dependent on beds and access, and the Balearic Islands have been proactive on increasing both, while parts off mainland Spain have been slower to do so. Some Spanish cities have imposed tourism taxes and others have complained about over-tourism and conveyed disapproval about visitor numbers.”

He added: “The islands were a traditional haven of the traditional package holiday as sold by tour operators, long after low cost airlines and DIY bookings had come to dominate markets such as the Costa Del Sol and Costa Daurada. The local government has been aggressive in targeting tourists.

“Britain’s decline in market share from 22pc to 21.3pc and Germay’s from 13.4pc to 12.7pc are part of a wider pattern, where Brexit has change the travel patterns of British tourists and Germany has been lower to return to outbound tourism after the pandemic than other main markets. I expect the trend to continue. Majorca ‘gets it’ about tourism in a way that Barcelona may not.”

Meanwhile, tourism in the Balearics is still increasing, with holiday companies in the UK noting it as one of the most popular destinations for Brits. In 2022, tourists visiting the islands spent a huge total of £14.9billion – making it a huge economic drive. Known for their beautiful beaches and independent shops, it’s not hard to see why these islands see millions of tourists.

In Spain, Barcelona is still a hot-spot, but there has been a decline in the number of visitors. Despite that, in 2022 the amount spent by each visitor increased, possibly due to rising costs.

Some suggest the decline is a backlog from the pandemic, while others cite the cost of living as a reason why people are staying away from the Spanish capital.