Industry results and forecasts released this week have confirmed that the southern Spanish region of Andalucía is still one of Europe's top tourist destinations.
The British are Andalucía's best customers and the World Travel Market (WTM), held this week in the ExCel centre, was the ideal time and place for the tourism authorities to announce more good news for the sector.
The president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, in London to open the region's stand at the ExCel centre, revealed the industry's predicted results for 2017, the best tourism figures in the history of the region. By the end of 2017, 29.4 million visitors will have travelled to Andalucía and among them they will have spent 52 million nights in hotel accommodation.
Andalucía has always been a favourite holiday destination for the British, who show no signs of changing their preferences.
In fact the region's Tourism minister, Francisco Javier Fernández, said at the WTM that British visitor figures are expected to be up six per cent next year.
“We expect good results because Andalucía is showing its strength, quality and diversity,” said Díaz. “This is essential if we are to continue to improve thanks to new market niches.”
One of the main objectives for the region in the coming year is to attract British tourists with greater spending power, said the president, something being achieved by offering more quality high-end facilities and services.
British tourists are not just good news for Andalucía in terms of visitor numbers, which grew 16% last year. Díaz pointed out on Monday that the British take longer holidays in southern Spain than most, an average of ten days; they spend more - up to 71 euros a day, five more than the average; and they value their holiday experience more highly than other visitors, according to surveys.
This tourist satisfaction translates into loyalty. While a large proportion of British visitors have been to the south of Spain more than once, the regional tourism authority still believes there is room to strengthen this loyalty even further.
Over the three days at the travel trade fair this week, more than 12,000 tourism professionals visited the Andalusian section, with over 3,000 meetings taking place.
Meanwhile in the Costa del Sol's own section of the World Travel Market, the mayors and tourism officials of all the most important tourist resorts could be found all making optimistic noises about the latest growth figures for the market.
The president of the provincial government, Elías Bendodo, however brought a note of caution to the general triumphant tone. There are indications, he said, that we are approaching a change in cycle and priority has to be given to tourist loyalty.
“By the end of 2017, three million British passengers will have arrived at Malaga airport,” he said.
“What's more we have passed the one million guest milestone in Costa del Sol hotels and apartments, up 2.8% on last year,” said Bendodo, warning of the danger of “not making the mistake of believing we are the best and that our success will last forever”.
Tuesday's business at the WTM included meetings with ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents.
The ABTA representatives confirmed their confidence in the Costa del Sol as a safe and favourite destination for British tourists, but said that traditional Mediterranean competition was making a recovery.
Due to instability in recent years, countries such as Egypt, Tunisia or Turkey had lost British tourists to the benefit of southern Spain. Now, warns ABTA, tourists are starting to go back.
ABTA has chosen Andalucía's capital city, Seville, as the venue for its Travel Convention next year.
Andalucía in the street
The region has not been content with talking to agencies and operators at the WTM. At the end of last week it went out onto the streets to deliver its message to potential tourists in person.
While a bus covered in images of Andalucía did the rounds of London, the Angel Central Shopping Centre in Islington was the venue for a display of all things Andalusian. Shoppers were treated to flamenco shows and traditional ham and wine tastings and were able to take their photographs in front of images of some of the most beautiful landscapes, beaches and monuments in Europe.
The Costa del Sol tourism authority has also been out in the streets of London, but this time decorating traditional black cabs. The campaign was launched in the city on Wednesday.