The uncertainty still surrounding Brexit was a central theme at this year's World Travel Market in the Excel centre in London, as destinations from around the world gathered to secure their slice of the normally lucrative British tourist market.
With the UK being the country that sends most holidaymakers to Spain, any potential effects of a hard or soft exit from the EU were on delegates' minds at the fair that ran from Monday to Wednesday this week.
Tourism authorities on a national, regional and provincial level were cautious when it came to making predictions for the immediate future after Brexit. "Not even Boris Johnson knows," pointed out one of the Costa del Sol mayors.
Organisations such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), along with British Airways, as well as tour operators such as TUI and Jet2.com have given the Andalusian authorities and the around local 200 business owners who travelled to London for the event some reassurance. Whatever happens with Brexit, the British will still choose to holiday in Spain, was the message.
At different meetings travel agents and operators confirmed the confidence British tourists have in Spain as a destination, saying that businesses and British people "have ended up adapting" as the Brexit situation appears to drag out eternally.
At a meeting with the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, the CEO of ABTA, Mark Tanzer, said the British would continue to choose Andalucía, according to his organisation's statistics. These include a forecast of a 2% increase in British tourists for the coming year.
At a previous meeting with the president of the Costa del Sol tourism authority, Francisco Salado, Tanzer did say though that the greatest concern now among the holiday industry was the upcoming election in the UK due to its timing. Any general instability generated by an indecisive election result could affect holiday destination decisions which many people in Britain make in December or January.
The president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, described the atmosphere of cautious optimism as vital for an industry which is "strategic for the Andalusian economy and the UK is a strategic market for tourism."
The president stressed the importance of the WTM which is now in its 40th year. "This fair is an invitation to the world to enjoy the paradise on earth that is Andalucía, with its quality and diverse [tourism] offering," he said.
The tourism industry accounts for 13% of the region's GDP and, with reference to Brexit, Moreno stressed the work his authority has been doing alongside tourism professionals to be prepared for all circumstances.
"I think Andalucía is perfectly ready to deal with any situation," he said. "Andalucía is an island amid all this fuss."
The vice-president of the Junta and regional minister for Tourism, Juan Marín, offered some facts and figures. His department has upgraded the general tourism growth forecast for 2019 in Andalucía to 3.3%. The British market has remained steady this year with forecasted growth for 2019 of 0.7%, a significant increase given the 6% slump in 2018.
"We are convinced that British tourism will continue to grow in the region," said Marín. "It's a question of moving forward and continuing to gain presence."
He explained that between now and the end of this year, tourism promotion would be stepped up, with an extra one-million-euro spend, and that the 2020 Action Plan, which will be launched after this weekend's elections, will see an increase of 42% in promotional ventures to attract British visitors, with a budget of 1.8 million euros.
Costa del Sol
As well as delegations from local councils from the main Costa del Sol resorts and Mancomunidad district authorities, more than 60 local businesses had a presence at the WTM under the umbrella of the Costa del Sol tourism authority. President Francisco Salado said he was confident that the Costa del Sol's tourism offer "will continue to win over the British".
Airline statistics show a 0.5% decrease in the number of seats available on flights between the UK and the Costa del Sol between now and next March. Salado stressed, however, that this is not such bad news as "the Costa is in a better position than other parts of Spain". Figures for the rest of Spain have dropped by 3% for the coming season.
"So far we have no indication that Brexit is negatively affecting the arrival of British visitors on the Costa del Sol, quite the opposite. Neither does it look like it will have an effect over the coming months. 2020 is going to be good for this market, despite the uncertainties," said Salado. "We have to keep optimistic. The Costa is still a strong destination and we will continue to be [market] leaders."