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Spain closes in on 80 million foreign tourists in record-breaking 2017

2016 mark of 75.3 million surpassed in mid-November although monthly figures down in Catalonia

Barcelona's Barceloneta beach in August. Ampliar foto
Barcelona's Barceloneta beach in August.

Spain welcomed 4.4 million foreign tourists in November, 7.4% up on last year. Though December figures are not yet available, the 2016 record of 75.3 million was already broken by mid-November. By the end of November, a total of 77.8 million foreign tourists had arrived, 9.1% more than in the first eleven months of 2016, according to figures from the Spanish statistics office (INE).

If December figures match the 3.99 million foreign tourists welcomed in the last month of 2016, Spain will close the year having entertained more than 80 million foreign tourists.

Despite dips in October and November, Catalonia has welcomed more tourists this year than in 2016

The Canary Islands was the favorite destination in November with 1.24 million foreign tourists – 6.7% more than last November, and a figure that represents 28.2% of all visitors to Spain last month. Over the course of 2017 to date, the Canary Islands has already welcomed almost 13 million foreign tourists.

Catalonia was the second most popular region in November for foreigners, welcoming 22.4% of the national total. However, the total of 986,712 visitors was 2.3% less than in November 2016 and the lowest since 2014. November was the second consecutive month where a fall in numbers was seen, following a 4.67% drop in October presumably due to the tensions surrounding the independence referendum. During this period of political instability, Catalonia has welcomed 96,000 fewer foreign tourists than in 2016.

Over the course this year, however, Catalonia has welcomed more tourists than last year despite anti-tourist attacks and terrorists attacks in the region in August that left 16 dead. In the first 11 months of 2017, 18.2 million foreign tourists visited Catalonia, 6.06% more than in the same period in 2016, trumping all other regions for foreign tourism.

The 2016 record of 75.3 million foreign visitors was already broken by mid-November

However, in the second half of the year, growth slowed. In April and May, there was a 16% increase on the same period of 2016, in June this dropped to 9.7% and in July 6.5% while in August when tourism was soaring in the rest of Spain, it rose by just 2.3%. Growth recovered in September, registering a boost of 6% on 2016 numbers, but dropped again in October and November.

Catalonia is the region with lowest growth over the year: 6.06% compared to 9.1% in the rest of Spain. The Balearic Islands industry grew only slightly more at 6.17%, while growth in Madrid and Valencia was over 15%, Andalusia saw a 9% rise in numbers and the Canary Islands 7.9%.

Tourists are coming from all over but this November the Brits outstripped the Germans with 913,373 visitors to 594,000 while tourism from France – Spain’s third biggest market –stalled. This November saw 535,781 French tourists crossing the Pyrenees, just 0.5% more than November 2016. The biggest growth areas, however, were the American market – up 31.5% on November 2016 numbers – and the Russian segment – up 25.7%.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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