Tourism in Spain is the third major contributor to national economic life after the industrial and the business/banking sectors, contributing about 10–11% of Spain’s GDP.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, the country has been a popular destination for summer holidays, especially with large numbers of tourists from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Benelux, and the United States, among others.
Accordingly, Spain’s foreign tourist industry has grown into the second-biggest in the world.
In 2019, Spain was the second most visited country globally, recording 83.7 million tourists, which marked the seventh consecutive year of record-beating numbers.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in the first eleven months of the year 2020, only 18.3 million tourists visited Spain.
These dramatic figures are devastating for the tourism sector and reflect what will be the worst year for this industry in terms of income ever recorded.
Spain ranks first among 140 countries in the biannual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum in 2019, matching the top position already achieved in 2017 and 2015.
The World Tourism Organization has its headquarters in Madrid.
According to The Economist 2005 year list, Spain has the world’s 10th highest quality of life.
Transport in Spain
Tourists also arrive in Spain by road, rail, and over the water.
Spanish freeways interconnecting the touristic cities are also linked with the French freeway network across the Pyrenees.
The leading train operator is RENFE, including AVE (Spanish high-speed train) or Talgo intercity services.
Spain’s high-speed rail link is the largest in Europe and second-largest in the world after China.
There is also several high-end tourism-oriented hotel-train services, such as Transcantábrico.
Summer resorts and beaches in Spain
This type of tourism was the first to be developed in Spain and today generates the most income for the Spanish economy.
The mild climate during the whole year and the extensive sandy beaches of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean and its two archipelagoes (the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, respectively) have attracted tourists from Northern Europe for decades.
The leading source markets of Spanish beach tourism are the UK (around 24% of the total arrivals in Spain in recent years), Germany and France (approximately 15-16% each), followed by Scandinavia and Italy (around 7% each) and the Netherlands (about 5%).
The most popular Spanish mainland coasts are on its Mediterranean side and include, from north to south clockwise:
• The Costa Brava, the Costa Daurada, and the Costa del Maresme, in the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, very popular with visitors from France and inland Spain, with notable resorts like Salou and the city of Barcelona.
• The Costa Blanca (one of Spain’s most developed coastal areas, extremely popular for tourists from the United Kingdom and Germany, with Benidorm as the leading summer city of Spain) and the Costa del Azahar are both in the Valencian Community.
• The Costa Cálida in the Murcia and the Mar Menor region, a lagoon by the Mediterranean Sea.
• The Costa de Almería, the Costa Tropical, the Costa del Sol and the Costa de la Luz, all in the community of Andalusia.
Some of the summer destinations here are renowned worldwide, such as Marbella in Málaga Province or Sotogrande in Cádiz province, both destinations for tourists and summer residents with significant purchasing power.
The city of Málaga is a notable Costa del Sol destination and one of the largest harbors in Spain and frequented by cruise ships.
Spain’s two archipelagoes, the Balearic Islands off the mainland coast in the Mediterranean and the volcanic Canary Islands in the Atlantic, are also top-rated destinations with Spaniards and Europeans.
In addition to summer tourism, other modalities like cultural and monumental tourism congresses, sport, are tourism-oriented or fun tourism have been developed in these areas, including such famous cities as Barcelona and Valencia, the biggest harbors of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
Many coastal or island places also have significant ecological and natural importance.
Theme Parks like Terra Mítica, Tibidabo Amusement Park, Tivoli World, and the resort Port Aventura World or diverse water-fun parks are also popular.
In 2014 Spain broke its record of blue flag beaches, achieving 681 flags and becoming the leader in the Northern Hemisphere.
Spain is also the leader in blue flags for marinas.
Cultural tourism, business tourism in Spain
As a crossroads of several civilizations, Spain offers several historical cities and towns.
Major destinations include Spain’s two largest cities: Madrid and Barcelona, which stand as two of the leading city destinations in Europe.
Both offer a matchless number of attractions. Their importance in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, sports, and arts contributes to their status as two of the world’s major global cities.
Fifteen Spanish cities have been declared World Heritage Cities by the UNESCO: Alcalá de Henares, Ávila, Baeza, Cáceres, Córdoba, Cuenca, Ibiza, Mérida, Salamanca, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Santiago de Compostela, Segovia, Tarragona, Toledo and Ubeda.
As of October 2016, Spain has 45 total sites inscribed, third only to Italy (51) and China (50).
Of these 45 sites, 40 are cultural, three are natural, and two are mixed (meeting both cultural and natural criteria), as determined by the organization’s selection criteria.
Other first-class destinations include Seville, Granada, Santander, Oviedo, Gijón, Bilbao and San Sebastián.
They all boast historical landmarks and a lively cultural agenda.
Student programs in Spain
Besides hosting some of the most renowned business schools globally, such as IE Business School, ESADE, or IESE Business School, Spain is a popular destination for students from abroad.
In particular, during the 2010–11 academic year, Spain was the European country receiving the most Erasmus program students.
Religion in Spain
Spain is an important place for Catholicism.
Some of the holiest places for the Catholic Church are in Spain: the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (North-West Spain), the third most sacred place after the Vatican City in Rome, and Jerusalem.
It is also the terminus of the Way of Saint James.
Santo Toribio de Liébana, Cantabria (also in North Spain) is the fourth, followed by Caravaca de la Cruz at the South-East (fifth holiest place).
These places attract pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.
Religion also has found its artistic expression through the famous Holy Week processions, which become essential in almost every town.
Festivals in Spain
Most festivals turn around patron saints, legends, local customs, and folklore.
Among the most singular ones stand out the Seville Fair (Feria de Abril in Spanish), the Romería de El Rocío in Almonte, Huelva, the world-famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the Fallas in Valencia, the Tomatina in Buñol, Valencia and the Fiestas del Pilar in Zaragoza.
The Carnival is also famous all over Spain, but especially in the Canary Islands (Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife) and Cadiz.
There are renowned movie festivals all over the country, the most recognizable being the famous San Sebastián International Film Festival, the Málaga Spanish Film Festival, the Seminci (Valladolid International Film Festival), the Mostra de Valencia, and the Sitges Film Festival, the world’s top international festival specializing in fantasy and horror movies.
Music festivals includes the Sónar, the FIB, the Festimad, the Primavera Sound, the Bilbao BBK Live, the Monegros Desert Festival and the SOS 4.8 Festival.
Several cities have hosted international events: the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition, the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, the 1992 Summer Olympics, all in Barcelona, the Universal fair of 1992 in Seville, the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, and the Expo 2008 in Zaragoza.
In addition, some Spanish cities have been or will be European Capital of Culture: Madrid in 1992;
Santiago de Compostela in 2000, Salamanca in 2002, and San Sebastián in 2016.
🏨 Hotels Near Spain
|B&B Hotel Barcelona Viladecans||📍 Av. Olof Palme, 24, 08840 Viladecans, Barcelona, Spain||Viladecans||📞 +34 932 99 36 58||hotel-bb.com/es/hotel/barcelona-viladecans|
|Hotel Roquetas El Palmeral by Pierre & Vacances||📍 Av. Mediterráneo, S/N, 04740 Roquetas de Mar, Almería, Spain||Roquetas de Mar||📞 +34 950 93 79 90||pierreetvacances.com/es-es/fp_EJH_alquiler-apartamentos-hotel-hotel-roquetas-el-palmeral|
|Sercotel Gran Hotel Luna de Granada||📍 Pl. del Guitarrista Manuel Cano, 2, 18004 Granada, Spain||Granada||📞 +34 958 28 29 13||granhotellunadegranada.com/|
|Hotel Helios Costa Tropical||📍 P.º San Cristóbal, 12, 18690 Almuñécar, Granada, Spain||Almuñécar||📞 +34 958 63 06 36||hoteleshelios.com/hotel-helios-costa-tropical|
|Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona||📍 Passeig del Taulat, 262-264, 08019 Barcelona, Spain||Barcelona||📞 +34 935 07 07 07||hilton.com/en/hotels/bcndmhi-hilton-diagonal-mar-barcelona/|
|Hotel Arts Barcelona||📍 Carrer de la Marina, 19-21, 08005 Barcelona, Spain||Barcelona||📞 +34 932 21 10 00||ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/spain/barcelona/|
|Hotel RIU Plaza España||📍 C/ Gran Vía, 84, 28013 Madrid, Spain||Madrid||📞 +34 919 19 33 93||riu.com/es/hotel/espana/madrid/hotel-riu-plaza-espana/|
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|Bali Gong Villa||📍 Batuan, Sukawati, Gianyar Regency, Bali 80582, Indonesia Batuan, Kec. Sukawati, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80582||Gianyar Regency||📞 +62 822-4743-3110||-|
|Bali Bohemia||📍 Nyuh Kuning, Jl. Nyuh Bojog, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia||Gianyar Regency||📞 +62 361 978631||balibohemia.com/|