Spain’s Tourism Approaches Pre-Pandemic Levels with a Surge from U.S. Visitors

The National Statistics Institute (INE) of Spain announced on Wednesday that the country received 37.5 million foreign tourists in the first half of 2023.

This is a 24% increase from 2022, almost matching the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, which saw 38.2 million visitors. June alone marked 8.3 million visitors, an 11% rise from the same month in the previous year.

Spain’s tourism revenue has also seen significant growth, with foreign tourist spending climbing by 14.3% to reach €46 billion ($50.3 billion). The UK, Germany, and France led the spending, with the highest cumulative figures coming from these countries. The most preferred destinations for this spending were the Canary Islands, Catalonia, and Andalusia.

The U.S. market has been showing a notable surge in the midst of the high tourism season. In the first half of 2023, 1.8 million Americans visited Spain, a substantial 17.4% increase from the same period in 2022. This increase in U.S. visitors is impressive despite the U.S. ranking sixth in terms of visitor origins, behind countries like the UK, France, and Germany.

June recorded 546,093 U.S. visitors alone, the highest figure since 2015. The most sought-after regions by U.S. tourists were Catalonia, chosen by 41%, and Madrid, drawing 27% of the visitors. Despite the UK, France, and Italy remaining the preferred European destinations for Americans, Spain has seen growing interest due to its potential for growth and the size of the U.S. market.

During 2022, there was a remarkable increase in U.S. tourist volume (249.5%), spending (250.8%), and overnight stays (239.6%). On average, U.S. tourists spent €1,874 per trip and €266 daily. This progression indicates a steady recovery of U.S. spending in Spain.

In the first quarter of 2023, Spain, which had maintained strict border controls and mandatory Covid testing for non-European Union travelers until October 2022, welcomed 2,947,720 American travelers. This made Europe the top overseas destination for Americans, with a share of 14.5%.

For 54.5% of American tourists, travel is a priority budget item, with 86% stating leisure as their primary motivation for visiting Spain. Popular activities include city tours (65%), cultural visits (62%), and shopping (55%). As for accommodation, most tourists prefer hotels (80%), while others opt for apartment rentals (10%). Interestingly, only 16% of Americans opted for tour packages, favoring self-organized trips.

Overall, the surge in visitors, particularly from the U.S., signals a promising revival of Spain’s tourism industry, which is quickly approaching pre-pandemic levels.

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