Updated on May 29, 2023 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

Spain is one of the leading countries in the tourism industry. According to the CaixaBank Research facility, Spain received 4.1 million tourist arrivals in December 2022, and 4.28 million in December 2019.

While the Spanish Government website, La Moncloa, shows this has increased to 4.3 million in February 2023.

Statista shows that Spain received their second-highest tourism figures in 2019, reaching a total of 83.5 million.

In 2020 they came in third with 18.93 million tourist arrivals, and in 2021 they came in second with 31.2 million arrivals.

Although international tourism was dramatically reduced because of the pandemic, Spain continued to uphold their high-ranking tourism status throughout the global crisis.

Spain is successful in the tourism industry because of its rich cultural and natural attractions.

Its exceptional infrastructure, the quality of its transportation, and hotel density also make the country more desirable to visit and travel to.

Here we are going to mention some of the top trends and statistics in Spain’s tourism industry.

How The Tourism Industry Affects The Local Residence

Tourism In Spain – 50+ Statistics, Numbers And Trends (1)

According to the Eurostat database, the average European Union country will have 55.9% of its residents participating in tourism-based jobs.

The country with the most tourism-based jobs was the Netherlands as 81% of the working population contributed to tourism in 2021.

In comparison, the Spanish have less than the average, with only 54.1% of the working population contributing to tourism in the same year.

Despite the country not putting all of its workforces into tourism, this country is still excelling in the industry.

The reason for this dominating presence comes from the large interest from neighbouring rich countries such as the UK, Germany and France (sourced by Statista).

Each of these wealthy countries lacks warm weather but can afford the short trip over to the low-cost locations of Spain.

This allows Spain to house many tourists through cheap prices and desirable weather conditions.

Where Are Most Spanish Tourists From?

  • Spain’s biggest fans are the British, as 15,121.9 thousand tourists travelled to the country in 2022.
  • Second was France with 10,096 thousand tourists.
  • Third was Germany with 9,768.6 thousand tourists.
  • Fourth was Italy with 4,011.1 thousand tourists, but Statista has grouped all of the Nordic countries into one reaching a total of 4,291.2 thousand tourists.

All these figures come from Statista’s 2022 data which showed more than 15 million UK tourists travelling to Spain.

How Much Do Tourists Spend In Spain?

Tourism In Spain – 50+ Statistics, Numbers AndTrends
  • Foreign tourists spent 5.07 billion euros ($5.37 billion) while on holiday in the country in March 2021, up from a mere 544 million euros a year earlier.
  • Spain closed the first quarter of 2021 with good data on arrivals and tourist spending, with the hope that the trend will intensify in the summer period.
  • The number of tourists flocking to Spain in March 2022 was still 1.6 million short of the number who arrived in March 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The amount spent in March 2019 was 6.03 billion euros.

How Tourism Contributes To Spain’s Economy

  • In 2021, Spain’s tourism sector brought in €97,126 million. This had a GDP of 8.0%.
  • 2020 was just 2.2 GPD points before 2021 showing a general size in tourism-based interest.
  • In 2021, the tourism sector created 2.27 million jobs and accounted for 11.4% of employment in the country.
  • Spain recorded a total of 36 million tourists in 2020.
  • In 2020, Spain ranked 8th in the world in absolute terms.
  • With 0.77 tourists per resident, Spain ranked 55th in the world. In Southern Europe, it ranked 6th.
  • Spain generated around 81.25 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone.
  • Spain’s Tourism corresponds to 6.3% of its GDP and approximately 40% of all international tourism receipts in Southern Europe.
  • In comparison to pre-pandemic years, Spain reached 11.8% GDP in 2017 and in 2018 13.5% of employment was dedicated to tourism. This created 2.6 million jobs directly.
  • By comparison, 2019 showed the first sign of change reaching just 5.4 GDP from the 81,868,500 tourist arrivals. This created 958,100 jobs, just 5% of the total employment.

Tourism Industry Insight

Tourism In Spain – 50 Statistics, Numbers AndTrends
  • Spain has begun to prepare a new Strategy for Sustainable Tourism for 2030.
  • The Strategy of Sustainable Tourism aims to transform Spanish tourism into a model of both sustained and sustainable growth to maintain the country’s leading position in tourism.
  • This strategy also aims to protect the assets on which the sector depends.
  • The Strategy will contribute to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals and meet both medium and long-term challenges of sustainable tourism in terms of socioeconomic, environmental, and territorial impacts.
  • Digitalization and modernization of all the various elements of the sector is a high priority and aims to improve the position of Spain as a leading global tourism destination.
  • Spain is seeking new mechanisms to boost destination innovation through the deployment of information and communication technologies to create different and highly competitive services.
  • Saudi Arabia and Spain have agreed to work together to identify several fields in which they can work together to revitalise the tourism sector after the COVID-19 pandemic.

How Do Spanish Tourists Travel

  • Using OECD Tourism’s data on tourism industry enterprises we can learn which travel industry accepts the most tourists. These travel sectors are measured in employee amount and number of facilities needed. These industries need more employees to handle more tourists, thereby showing a secondary indication of tourism interaction.
  • 2019 had the most people employed in the tourism industry in recent years, reaching 2,604,899 employees.
  • 2020 had 2,33,736 tourism employees and 2021 had a slight increase to 2,367,560 employees.
  • OECD Tourism separates the travel sector into air, railway, road and water.
  • In 2019, 52,334 people travelled by Air, 24,784 travelled by railway, 231,537 travelled by road, and 8,932 travelled by water.
  • In 2020, 44275 travelled by air, 21, 709 travelled by railway, 213,837 travelled by road, and 8,613 travelled by water.
  • In 2021, 46,061 travelled by air, 27,098 travelled by railway, 185,815 travelled by road, and 6,410 travelled by water.
  • Using this data, we can summarise that most Spanish tourists travel by road. This is a large majority. The second most popular is air, then by railway and the least popular by a large count is by water.
  • Despite the most popular travel method being roads, the most lucrative is air transport. In 2020, Spain received €6,125 million on air travel, €1,149 million on road travel, €685 million on railways, and €483 million on water transport.
  • This trend is reflected in both domestic tourism and inbound tourism. However domestic travellers are more likely to travel by water than inbound tourists.

What Aspects Of Tourism Does Spain Concour

Tourism In Spain
  • In 2019, the World Economic Forum reported that Spain continued to hold the top spot for tourism competitiveness. This forum looks at 140 countries and bases the strength of their tourism sector on population, finances and repeats returns.
  • Spain was in the top 3 in 2019, with its local competitors such as the UK and Germany barely making it into the top ten.
  • Spain is the second most visited country in the world.
  • It has the third-best infrastructure in the world and the third-best cultural assets.
  • A large portion of the tourism domination comes from golf.
  • Golf attractions bring in 1.2 million foreign tourists every year.
  • In 2020, this sector brought in €12.769 billion alongside 121,393 jobs both directly and indirectly.
  • Golf is considered the catalyst of Spain’s economy, as prices rise during golf tournaments.
  • The profits from golf affect 88% of all other tourism industries such as transport, shopping, restaurants and hotels.
  • In 2018, a record 1,195,000 tourists reported practising their golf before a tournament, purposefully elongating their stay. On average a golfing tourist will spend 11.9 days in the country, while a non-golfing tourist will stay for 7.4 days on average.
  • Tourism Specialists such as Invest In Spain believe that diversification is needed to prevent large losses in seasonal tourism, as only 85% of golf-based working contracts are permanent full-time contracts.
  • The increase in golf-based tourism has created a wave of foreign second-home owners.

Hong Kong Has Overtaken Spain’s First Place Podium

  • Spain used to be the top-ranked tourist destination, however, in 2020, Hong Kong stole that title.
  • Spain is still the top tourist destination in all of Europe and is currently ranked third in the world as Hong Kong and the USA creep into second and third place.
  • Spain still takes the lead in online searches for holidays, but a large drawback comes from the 2017 terrorist attack in Barcelona.
  • Spain has managed to ease fears of a repeat attack due to its strong internet presence in advertising and social media.
  • Although Italy is currently in 7th position in the global tourism ranking, it is presenting itself as a threat to Spain, coming for the European crown (Check out our guide to Italy tourism right here).

Where Do Most Tourists Visit?

  • According to Invest In Spain, the most popular destination for Spanish tourists is Catalonia. This area received 19.4 million tourists in 2020 which was 0.08% more than in 2019.
  • The second most popular is the Balearic Islands with 13.7 million tourists in 2020. However, this is 1.2% less than in 2019.
  • This is the Canary Islands with 13.1 million tourists in 2020. Again this was lower than anticipated as 4.4% fewer tourists visited the area.
  • The area which has lost popularity is Madrid with just 7,638,375 tourists in 2020.


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