The tourist sector has great importance for the Spanish economy, contributing between 8 and 10 percent of GDP and, as an invisible export, making up for the deficit in visible trade. Income from tourism was about 3m2 pesetas per annum in 1995, whereas expenditure (by Spanish tourists abroad) was just a fifth of this sum. Approximately 11 percent of the employed population works in the tourist sector, and there are some 10,000 hotels and campsites, 1,100,000 hotel beds, and 5,000 restaurants. Total registered guest capacity is in excess of 2 million beds. In international tourism Spain is the third country in the world by number of visitors, with well over 60 million arrivals a year. Most of them originate from EU countries, about half of all tourists coming from just three countries, France, Germany and the UK in that order; the Portuguese, however, are the most frequent day visitors. Almost 60 percent of all visitors arrive by road, and something over a third arrive by air; comparatively few do so by ship or train.
   Despite the large number of visitors who arrive in their own cars, the package holiday remains an important part of the tourist economy in Spain and contributes to a high occupancy rate, of between 80 and 90 percent, of hotels on the coast, as compared to about 60 percent for hotels in inland locations. Nevertheless, there has been a noticeable trend in recent years towards cultural tourism, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. Although there is tourist activity all the year round, one-third of all visitors come to Spain in July and August; September is the next most popular month with about one-tenth of the yearly arrivals. Seasonal fluctuations create employment problems in the sector, while the heavy concentration of visitors from a mere handful of countries makes the Spanish tourist industry highly sensitive to economic conditions in these countries.
   The tourist sector is especially important to the economies of certain regions. The Balearics and the Canaries are very heavily dependent on tourism, while Andalusia, one of the poorest of Spain's regions with the worst unemployment, receives the third-highest number of foreign tourists after Mallorca and Catalonia, as well as the highest number of visitors from other regions of Spain. Despite the seasonality of the industry, without the jobs and income that tourism generates, a mass exodus from these regions would be inevitable.
   Spanish domestic tourism has experienced an increase in recent times but cannot replace foreign tourism in economic importance: first because it is not a foreign currency earner; second because the numbers of Spanish tourists are so much smaller; and third because Spaniards make rather less use of hotel accommodation, preferring to stay in holiday apartments, with relatives, or in campsites. There has also been an increasing tendency among Spaniards to take holidays abroad (mainly in Europe but also in the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean). Nevertheless, the balance of international payments in the sector remains overwhelmingly in Spain's favour. Increasingly, the thrust of government policy has been to increase the quality of inbound tourism rather than the quantity, in other words to generate more income from the same number of visitors. Worries about whether Spain can maintain its share of the tourist market, as well as a wish to exploit the Spaniards" increasing desire for holidays abroad, have prompted major hotel chains such as Sol-Meliá, Occidental Hoteles and Hoteles Barcelo (each respectively with 59, 32 and 15 hotels abroad) to invest heavily outside Spain, either by takeovers of existing foreign hotels or even more through opening new establishments. This investment abroad has taken up 40 percent of all direct investment of the major Spanish chains and evinces a determination to maintain Spain as a leading player in the tourist sector. Spanish hotel chains have over 130 hotels abroad, whereas foreign chains have just 34 hotels in Spain.
   Further reading
   - Salmon, K. (1995) The Modern Spanish Economy. Transformation and Integration into Europe, London: Pinter (chapter 8 gives a good overall account of the tourist sector).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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