As Spain recovers from its long economic crisis, Spaniards are slowly but enthusiastically returning to their former travel habits. Expenditures, number of trips, and lengths of holidays are all on the rise for Spanish tourists traveling both domestically and internationally.
Rebound In Domestic & International Travel
Domestic tourism has always been a mainstay in the Spanish travel market; the vast majority of holidays by Spaniards are enjoyed within their own country. According to TBP consulting, in 2016, out of 144 million trips taken, 131 million of them were domestic.
During Spain’s economic crisis, domestic travel declined significantly due to high unemployment rates and lower incomes. According to CEHAT, many travelers spent a mere three days on their Easter holidays during the height of the crisis, a much shorter stay than previous years for a major holiday.
That trend is seeing a clear shift. A 2017 report from the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) was optimistic about the rebound in domestic travel for last year due to major increases in travel to areas typically frequented by domestic tourists, with some areas seeing a 40% increase over those in 2013, when visits hit their low point. Numbers provided by TBP consulting confirm these findings, showing a 5% increase in domestic tourism in 2016 over the previous year.
International travel is also increasing. TBP reported a 3% increase in foreign trips from Spain in 2016. While other European destinations remain the most popular, there has been a spike in interest in the Asia-Pacific region, with a 15% increase in Spanish tourists in 2016. New low-cost airlines are also making Latin America a more attractive destination, while Morocco continues to have its fair share of loyal Spanish tourists, accounting for 6% of Spanish trips.
How The Spanish Travel
A report by The Blueroom Project (TBP Consulting), sheds insight on why and how Spanish tourists travel. Some highlights include:
- Leisure is the main reason the Spanish cite for travel (49%), while visits to relatives and friends is second (37%), and business travel accounts for 8.6%
- Hotels are the preferred housing option, followed by vacation rentals, and staying with family and friends
- Car travel is the most prevalent, followed by plane, train, and boat
- The budget for holidays abroad rose over 17.% in 2016!
The report shows that preferred destinations differ by generation. Travelers over age 45 preferred domestic destinations both inland and beaches; those aged 25-44 strongly preferred Spanish beaches; while the youngest cohort, those under 25, preferred beaches in Portugal and Italy, other European destinations such as the UK (where many go to practice their English), as well as places further afield such as Asia.
The Spanish Travel Market
A different report, the Phocuswright “Spanish Online Travel Overview” also sheds light on the Spanish travel market. The report shows a positive outlook for the overall market, with the resurgence of domestic travel and continued international interest contributing to growth. Modest growth was expected in all travel sectors last year with traditional airlines projecting 1% growth, low-cost carriers projecting 3% growth, the rail segment expecting 3% growth, and car rental companies with 3% growth projected.
The hotel market is the largest segment in the Spanish travel industry and is currently growing the fastest, with 9% growth forecast for 2017. However, market saturation, political concerns, and competition from companies such as Airbnb and HomeAway are likely to slow growth in the coming years.
Online bookings are on the rise, with 8% growth expected to a total of 11.3 billion Euros, though as of 2017, the online penetration was still only 43%. The penetration rate is expected to approach the halfway point by 2021. Mobile bookings are also increasing, with 22% of online bookings made by mobile last year. That rate is expected to rise to 31% by 2021 – fairly low considering Spain’s smartphone adoption is among the highest across markets.
The outlook for the Spanish travel market is positive for the foreseeable future, but there are challenges as well. Though much improved from previous years, unemployment is still relatively high, especially among the younger generation. The separatist movement in Catalonia is also creating feelings of unrest that affect where and how people travel. Despite these challenges, Spain’s climate, culture, and accommodations continue to make it an extremely attractive destination for international visitors and domestic tourists alike, especially if economic stability and growth continue.