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Alhambra sees visitor numbers fall but revenues on the rise

Economic crisis has taken its toll on Granada landmark

The Alhambra is one of the most visited monuments in Spain by European visitors. Ampliar foto
The Alhambra is one of the most visited monuments in Spain by European visitors.

The economic crisis has taken its toll on Granada's Alhambra palace and fortress complex. The stunning monument, which was originally constructed in 889, received 2,260,299 visits in 2012, which is 2.18 percent down on the figures for the previous, record-breaking year.

Despite the fall in numbers, the Alhambra is still one of the most in-demand destinations in Spain, in particular for European tourists. Germans and French top the visitor list, while North Americans take the lead in terms of tourists from outside the EU.

But the fall in numbers has not been a problem in terms of takings. Thanks to a diversification of the activities on offer, the figures have "comfortably" matched the forecasts, according to the general manager of the site, María del Mar Villafranca. Speaking to the press last week, she ruled out any plans to raise ticket prices, which have been stable for the last four years.

The revenue rise at the Alhambra came about due to the temporary exhibitions held there during 2012, as well as a number of other activities. If these visitors are taken into account, the global total for last year is actually 3.3 million people. Those numbers cannot, of course, be directly compared with the year before, given that there were a lot more exhibitions in 2011, resulting in a global total of 4.8 million people who visited the complex that year.

Context of the crisis

Aside from the 2.18-percent fall in visits, the management of the monument said it was "satisfied" with visitor numbers in the context of the current crisis. The increase of the cultural offerings at the Alhambra, which was converted into a royal palace in 1333, is one of the keys to the success of the site, where visitor numbers have to be carefully controlled given the need to preserve the historic buildings and gardens.

The majority of tourists who visit the Alhambra are from Europe, aged between 30 and 44, and are educated to university level. Granada residents who come to visit the Alhambra are also on the rise, thanks to programs that offer them cut-price entrance tickets.

Of the activities that the site hosted in 2012, the most popular included an exhibition of the work of Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla, called Gardens of Light , as well as an exhibition detailing the restoration work that has been carried out in the famous Court of the Lions.