Impact of the crisis on tourism in Spain’s Costa Blanca

Foreign Tourism falls by 21.7% in the Costa Blanca

The economic recession in the UK, which is especially acute in Northern British cities such as Liverpool and Manchester (two of the biggest sources of tourists for Benidorm) has made the Costa Blanca the biggest loser in terms of foreign tourism compared to the rest of Spain. Figures published by the Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Commerce for the first four months of 2009 show that foreign tourists visiting the Costa Blanca fell by 21.7% compared to a fall of 11.9% for the rest of Spain.

The figures were announced yesterday in the hotel Asia Gardens in Benidorm during a conference organized Turespaña to look at the situation of the British tourism market which has been clearly affected by the depreciation of the pound against the euro. According to some experts it will be difficult for Benidorm to regain the popularity it once held during the nineties as a cheap tourist destination with competitive prices. This year holidaying in Spain is now 20% more expensive for British tourists who are now turning to alternative destinations such as Turkey.

Turkey is Spain’s biggest rival in the Mediterranean for ‘sun and beach’ tourism and this summer Turkish tour operators are offering millions of subsidised flights to British and German tourists.

Yesterday Ignacio Vasallo, the director of the Spanish Tourism Office in London (OET) revealed that so far this year Benidorm has received 127.000 hotel reservations compared to the 140,000 it received in 2008. In fact the British tourism market for Benidorm has decreased by 16% this year which is 3 points more than the rest of Spain (-13%). Sales by major tour operators have fallen by 30% while reservations made by independent tourists flying with low cost airlines have remained constant. Furthermore, adding to these problems is the fact that tourism in alternative destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia has grown by 30%, 20% and 13% respectively.

Speaking at yesterday’s conference Ignacio Vasallo clearly stated that the pound would never, in his opinion, reach the strength it once had over the euro which is why the recovery of tourism in the Costa Blanca would need to depend on factors which were not monetary. According to his forecasts the value of the pound, which has fallen by around 30% over the last few months, could improve slightly but that this rise would not be enough to give it back its former strength over the euro. Vasallo said that previously the pound had been overvalued and now it was returning to a more realistic level.

Despite this Vasallo said that airline companies operating between the UK and El Altet (Alicante airport) had increased their reservations by 9% for next summer with almost 4.

3 million seats – something which,in his opinion, reflected the confidence of British Airlines in the Costa Blanca as a major tourist destination.