Tourists on the beach. EFE
Ninety million visitors: record tourist numbers boost Spain's economy in 2024

Ninety million visitors: record tourist numbers boost Spain's economy in 2024

Caixabank Research expects the sector to grow by around 5% this year, double the GDP growth rate, with a notable increase in spending by visitors from the US and Latin America

Edurne Martínez


Friday, 21 June 2024, 14:44

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The Spanish economy will continue to grow well above both its European counterparts and beyond expectations. The latest to revise its GDP growth forecasts upwards has been Caixabank Research, which anticipates the economy will grow by 2.4% in 2024 - half a percentage point higher than its previous projection - and by another 2.4% in 2025. This momentum is primarily driven by the strong performance of the tourism sector.

The research department of the body expects tourist GDP to grow by 5% this year, double the overall economic growth rate, and by 3.2% in 2025, buoyed by the recovering purchasing power of European households amidst declining inflation, the European economic rebound, and Spain's perceived increased safety amid geopolitical tensions.

"There is no doubt that part of the current dynamism of the Spanish economy can be explained by the good momentum of the tourism sector," says the organisation in its report presented on Wednesday. After a record-breaking 2023, the first four months of 2024 have surpassed all previous figures, leading to projections that the tourism sector's share of total GDP will reach 13% this year. One quarter of GDP growth this year will be attributable to the tourism sector.

The figures are striking: Spain will exceed 90 million international visitors this year, according to the forecasts of Caixabank Research, five million more than last year's all-time record. Domestic tourism also remains strong but growing at more modest rates than international tourism due to the full reactivation of Spaniards traveling abroad following the pandemic.

The evolution of international tourism spending is also notable. Although spending by European tourists remains the most significant, it has lost some weight since 2019. In contrast, tourism from the Americas shows an "amazing" evolution, according to the report's authors. Data collected by Caixabank on spending with foreign cards indicates that the contribution of North American tourists (from the US and Mexico) to growth has increased from 10.1% in 2019 to 12% in 2023, with early 2024 figures showing an even greater increase. Spending by Latin American tourists has increased from 3.8% before the pandemic to 4.3% in 2023. In contrast, the contribution to spending growth by European tourists has decreased from 73.1% to 71.8% of the total.

Heat waves reduce visits

While tourism is booming, the report warns of the negative consequences of climate change on the sector. Tourists are less likely to return to Spain if they have experienced a heat wave on one of their previous visits, affecting visitor numbers in summer due to increased temperatures associated with climate change, the report states.

Specifically, the likelihood of tourists returning to Spain a second time is 14%, but is reduced to 12% if they experienced a heat wave during their visit. When the average daily temperature exceeds 5C compared to the historical average, the probability of repeat visits is considerably reduced. The British and Americans are most affected by rising temperatures, with a 4% drop in their intention to return. The French and Portuguese are the least affected, with a decrease of only 1%.

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