Official Spanish figures show 9.6 million tourists arrived in July, up 11% on 2015, with about one in four coming from Britain
Record numbers of British tourists went to Spain this summer, undeterred by a weak pound and the vote for Brexit – with some resorts in Mallorca 100% booked up into late September.
The attack on Istanbul airport in June, which left 41 dead, and other terror incidents in the eastern Mediterranean appear to have prompted many holidaymakers to go to Spain, in one of the biggest shifts in tourism patterns for years. Cuba and Bulgaria have also enjoyed big increases in tourist arrivals.
Official Spanish government figures reveal that a record 9.6 million tourists arrived in July alone, up 11% on the year before, with about one in four coming from Britain. The Barcelona region has seen the biggest increase, followed by the Balearics, the Costa del Sol and the Canaries.
Final figures for August have yet to be published, but the Association of British Travel Agents said it expects to see a year-on-year increase of 25% in numbers visiting Spain, but a 30% decline in Turkey, a 60% fall in Egypt and a near total collapse in Tunisia.
It is estimated that terrorist attacks led to 4.6 million fewer tourists visiting Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia, with 2.2 million of those going to Spain instead.
Rafael Gallego, the president of the Spanish travel agents and tour operators association, said: “Between 12% and 15% of the tourists coming to Spain wouldn’t have come were it not that those destinations that compete directly with Spain for sun and beaches are closed due to tragic events.”
But some residents fear that parts of the country have hit “saturation point” with arrivals of 67 million tourists this year far outnumbering Spain’s population of 47 million.
On the streets of Mallorca’s capital, Palma, scores of anti-tourist graffiti slogans – reading “tourists go home” and “tourist you are the terrorist” – were sprayed on the walls of listed buildings in the historic quarter of the city at the start of the holiday season. They were quickly removed by police.
A total of 13 million British tourists visited Spain in 2015, said Abta, up 6% on the year before. It anticipates that 2016 will easily be a record-busting year. “Spain now accounts for around 20% of the total number of visits by British people abroad,” said a spokeswoman.
Manel Casals, the director general of the Barcelona hoteliers association, said hotel occupation in June and July was running at 80-89%, the same as last year, but, “although we don’t yet have the figures, it has been an exceptional August”.
Meanwhile, British holidaymakers seeking a last-minute bargain are being directed to Turkey, where desperate hoteliers have dropped prices dramatically. Thomas Cook is offering a week at a five-star resort in Antalya departing this weekend, on an all-inclusive basis, for just £598. Its cheapest five-star in Mallorca on the same basis is priced at £1,402 a head.