Egyptian and Tunisian Unrest is Spain’s Gain
Spain could reign again this year and reclaim its number three spot in the top ten most visited countries in the world list. Airline websites are already reporting a rise in bookings to Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearics, especially Mallorca.
Spain has been given a run for its money recently by “emerging destinations” which have become the new favourites, such as Turkey and the Red Sea region in Egypt, but the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt early this year has resulted in more bookings to the Iberian peninsula of late.
It will be welcome news for Spanish holiday-related businesses across the board, from the chiringuito beach bars to car rental firms and taxi drivers. The country has long been Europe’s most popular timeshare destination.
In 2010 Spain fell off its top three perch as the world’s third most visited country, dropping down to fourth place behind France, the US and China, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation reports, but it could be back on track this year as the Canary Islands shape up to be one of 2011’s real winners.
Last month alone visitor figures soared by almost 9%, with 2.66 million holidaymakers heading for Canary Island shores in January, up 4.7% compared to January 2010. Marriott, Club La Costa, Pearly Grey, Silverpoint, Petchey, Pestana and Spanish giant Sol Melia are some of the well known names in the shared ownership industry who operate luxury resorts in the Canaries.
"We have benefited in a way from the crisis in Egypt and Tunisia because it has diverted tourists from those countries, especially to the Canaries," said Tourism Minister Miguel Sebastian, but he added that that’s not the goal of his policy – instead, he wants to improve the promotion of Spain abroad in markets such as Russia, China and India.
According to one of the UK’s biggest tour operators, bookings to the Balearics are booming – up 30% this year, and not too far behind is Greece, up 20% compared to this time last year.
Some, though, are still cautious about Spanish visitor figures. Juan Antonio Fuster of the Mallorcal hotel federation has pointed out that higher oil prices caused by the Arabic regions’ unrest will have a negative knock-on effect for airfares: “In a highly interconnected global economy, instability in the Mediterranean Basin can have negative economic consequences that affect Spain’s tourism sector.”