The number of tourists visiting Spain, particularly from the UK, continues to fall as more and more people are opting for holidays outside the Euro zone.
The number of British visitors to Spain during January 2009 was down by over 20% when compared to 2008, the worst figures since records began some fifteen years ago. The credit crunch and the pound sterling hovering around the parity level with the euro appear to be having a profound effect, with destinations such as Turkey and Egypt becoming more attractive.
The Pound fell by a staggering 23% against the Euro during 2008. It is a situation that is not only having an effect on those visiting Spain, but also on those who chose to buy a holiday property in Spain or decided to retire to the sun along the Costa del Sol.
A pension, or income, from the UK no longer goes as far, as many are finding out to their cost. For those whose income is derived in Spain the situation is, to try and look on the bright side, a lot better as they only have to contend with the local recession and not with currency fluctuations.
It is not, however, only UK tourist numbers which are on the decline, visitor numbers from America, Germany, France and Italy also fell in January.
Andalcía was particularly badly hit in January, with a hefty 27% fewer UK visitors compared to the same time last year. Even the Canary Islands, a traditional winter stomping ground for UK tourists, witnessed a 17.5% drop in numbers.
The Spanish economy is heavily dependent on tourism, but Spain is also in a recession and there does appear to be a need for a change of attitudes all round if things are not to go from bad to worse.
Tour operators and package holiday companies are already offering cut-price deals and there are a lot of low-cost airlines serving the Iberian peninsular, some of them offering almost permanent ‘sales’. A start.
Food prices are slowly creeping towards the levels in the UK, but they’re not there yet. They are not as cheap, relatively, as a year ago due to the fall of the pound, but as they started out around 30% lower than in the UK then the situation is still favourable for tourism. Alcohol remains cheaper, especially considering Spanish measures!
Accommodation is probably by far the biggest cost for holidaymakers, and exhorbitant hotel or private rental rates are no help to anyone. Some hotels have begun to reduce prices slightly to stimulate tourism, but more could certainly be done. The same goes for private rentals, many of which are owned by UK residents.
Surely it is better to have 100% ‘occupancy’ at a (greatly) reduced rate than for the properties to remain empty. You would think so. An empty property still attracts costs, from rates to maintenance. Better to make ‘something’ than ‘nothing’.
It is maybe also a question of putting something back into the community, of thinking long term. By encouraging visitors to a locality, albeit visitors with less spending power at the moment, it could mean the difference between that community surviving the recession or not.
There are probably going to be a lot of bargains around, so it’s going to be worth shopping around for the ‘best buy’ when it comes to package holidays.
For those making their own arrangements, there are plenty of low-cost airlines and when it comes to accommodation, not only shop around but also be prepared, and don’t be afraid, to have a good haggle over the price. It could pay dividends if common sense prevails.