Spain's Tourism Makeover: Striving for Balance and Sustainability

Spain is actively devising strategies to manage and curtail the impacts of mass tourism while maintaining economic prosperity. In 2023, the country welcomed an estimated 85 million foreign visitors, a figure exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Despite a notable 18% increase in spending compared to 2019, concerns about the sustainability of this growth have emerged, prompting the tourism association Exceltur to explore alternatives.

One key approach is to shift focus towards attracting higher-spending guests. The influx of Americans and South Americans in 2023, who demonstrated a greater expenditure per person, has sparked interest in expanding this market segment. By encouraging a visitor demographic willing to spend more, the aim is to maintain economic benefits while reducing the sheer volume of tourists. Additionally, a more even distribution of visitors across regions and seasons is being explored to alleviate congestion and prevent overload.

Picture by Pixabay

The surge in tourism has led to the opening of nearly 15,500 new holiday apartments in Spanish cities in 2023, contributing significantly to the strain on residential areas. The proliferation of illegal rentals through platforms like Airbnb complicates local enforcement. Exceltur advocates for a comprehensive national law that would facilitate the enforcement of regional regulations and address issues such as sprawl. Stringent enforcement, coupled with substantial fines, akin to the American model, is deemed essential for restoring livable neighborhoods and allowing the tourism sector to offer better services while effectively detecting and addressing abuses.

Addressing the concentration of visitors in specific regions and seasons is another vital aspect of Spain's strategy. Popular cities like Barcelona often face overwhelming crowds, particularly during the summer months. By promoting alternative seasons and less-explored regions, Spain aims to smooth out the annual peak, providing opportunities to manage mass tourism effectively with the existing number of visitors.

Picture by Harry Fabel

Spain's tourist season typically witnesses two peak periods: the summer months (June to August) and spring (mainly April and May). During these periods, renowned destinations experience a surge in visitors, accompanied by challenges such as long queues, crowded beaches and restaurants, and infrastructure issues. Travelers seeking a more serene experience are encouraged to explore Spain outside the high season, allowing them to appreciate the country's culture and landscapes without the drawbacks of overcrowding.

In this pursuit, Benidorm has positioned itself as a year-round tourist destination, offering special events and travel deals tailored to diverse age groups and budgets. This proactive approach exemplifies Spain's commitment to sustainable tourism practices while ensuring a thriving and balanced industry throughout the year.