TOURIST numbers fell significantly for Spain in January but were still at over 4.1 million – the equivalent of nearly 10% of the country’s population which, at the lowest point of low season, is not to be sniffed at.
As yet, figures for February 2020 have not been analysed, but for the previous month, even allowing for the looming Brexit deadline on January 31 and for the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, were very healthy.
Naturally, the main destination region for foreign visitors was the Canary Islands, which tend to be warmer than the mainland and largely escape the worst of the storms, cold snaps and other winter phenomena that hit the rest of the country.
Here, a total of 1.1 million holidaymakers – just over a quarter of the total – were recorded; an excellent result for the archipelago, even if it was 5% lower than in January 2019.
Catalunya came next – even though the low season does mean fewer visitors and January is a difficult month financially for most households, Barcelona is a delight whatever the weather and the rest of the region is ideal for non-beach tourism in mid-winter.
The north-eastern region welcomed 868,168 visitors, a fall of 4.5% on January 2019, and Madrid, which is also a popular city-break destination outside the traditional holiday season, saw 611,422 tourists, a fall of 4.6%.
Whilst Spain is, unfortunately, in the heart of the Coronavirus crisis, its 261 cases – mostly originating from the far worse Italian epidemic – are negligible in comparison with seasonal ‘flu and fairly centralised.
A worry for tourism industries nevertheless, it is likely figures for February and March will be considerably lower than for these months in 2019, but the fact that visitors only reduced by between 4.5% and 5% in January – when Brexit was also a consideration for many – has given the sector hope that the damage may not be as great as feared.
British tourist numbers dropped by 11% compared with the previous January, but with 718,248 in total, continued to be the largest international holidaymaker market, nearly 50% higher than that of the Germans, with 493,711 visitors, down by 4.6%.
Yet French tourists sharply increased in number – to 480,364, or up by 7.7%.
And those holidaymakers who still opted to travel to Spain in January spent more money €4,778,570 in total, compared with €4,689,330 last year, €4.5 million in 2018, €4.26m in 2017, and €3.74m in 2016.
Price rises in Spain and overall salary rises in northern Europe have not been enough to explain the differences per se, meaning that, even if visitor numbers have fallen, spending has gone up to help compensate for it, giving a fairly consistent result.
The average foreign holidaymaker in Spain in January spent €1,155 each, including accommodation – 3.6% more than in January 2019, despite staying for shorter periods, or an average of eight days.
And the overall total expenditure was up by 2.1% on January the previous year, exceeding ‘normal’ year-on-year price increases, making the reduction in actual numbers less of a problem as the economy still benefited more in January 2020.