the euro zone

We're back, baby

Recent terrorist attacks aimed at tourists in Mediterranean destinations are not lingering in holidaymakers' memories, it seems. This July, Spain's foreign visitor levels fell for the first time since 2009, by 4.9%; though hardly enough to dent the country's reputation as a tourism heavyweight, the slump shows that it lost some tourists to other "sun and sea" destinations this summer. Where did these holidaymakers go instead?

Many spent July roasting on Egyptian beaches, despite recent atrocities. Last July, a 29-year-old Egyptian graduate named Abdel-Rahman Shaaban targeted two resorts in Hurghada, on the Red Sea, and stabbed seven female tourists, three of them fatally. Shaaban's gruesome spree - specifically aimed at international visitors - mirrored a similar attack in Hurghada in January 2016, when two militants stabbed one Austrian and one Swedish tourist. These tragic events are no longer acting as a deterrent to tourists, though: visitor numbers to Egypt increased by 41% during the first half of 2018, compared to the same period in 2017.

Other tourists who passed over Spain this July chose Tunisia, the north African country that made international headlines in June 2015. In that month, an ISIS-backed gunman opened fire on holidaymakers in the El Kantaoui resort, just north of Sousse on Tunisia's beautiful Mediterranean coast. Thirty-eight people from six countries were killed. But in Tunisia, as in Egypt, the number of incoming tourists rose by 40% during the first six months of this year.

Yet other holidaymakers lured away from Spain's sun-drenched Costas chose to work on their tans in Turkey. Turkey has seen several terrorist attacks over recent years, as well as a failed military coup against Recep Erdogan's government in 2016 that resulted in the deaths of over 300 people. The most horrific assault on tourists and civilians occurred in the early hours of New Year's Day 2017, when a gunman affiliated to ISIS massacred 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub; among the dead and wounded were people from fourteen countries.

The UK Foreign Office currently rates the risk of further terrorist attacks in Turkey as "very likely", adding that it's "likely" tourists from western countries will be targeted. But none of this is putting people off holidaying there any more: the country's visitor numbers rose by almost a third throughout the first half of 2018.

As these three destinations recapture their lost popularity, Spain's state tourism body, TurEspaña, is trying a new approach to attract visitors. Over the next couple of years, its marketing strategy will focus on luring more "cosmopolitan tourists" - typically those who favour city breaks over beach resorts and who spend more - to Spanish destinations. While doing so, Spain can't afford to become too complacent about the appeal of its "sun and sea" hotspots, though: rival countries that were down-and-out a couple of years ago are firmly back on the scene.