Tourism in Spain

Tourism in Spain

Spain recorded a total of 36 million tourists in 2020, ranking 8th in the world in absolute terms.

Without including the size of a country, such a ranking list may not be very meaningful. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Spain, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.77 tourists per resident, Spain ranked 54th in the world. In Southern Europe, it ranked 6th.

In 2018, Spain generated around 81.25 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 5.7 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 40 percent of all international tourism receipts in Southern Europe.

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Back to overview: Spain

Most popular destinations in Spain

No less than three cities in Spain are among the top 100 most popular destinations worldwide. In 2021, Madrid reached the 4th place. This value was determined by Euromonitor by analyzing and weighting the attractiveness of the cities across six different areas. Unlike in previous years, there is no longer a ranking based on the number of tourists, mainly due to a lack of travel data.

Palma de Mallorca#51

Tourism in SpainOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2018 spent about 620 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of Spain spend as much as 1,136 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

The most popular destinations in Spain

Mallorca is the Balearic island located in the Mediterranean Sea with numerous seaside resorts and bays. While the capital Palma is famous for mass tourism and a distinct nightlife, the hinterland offers many hiking tours through picturesque mountain landscapes.

The capital of Catalonia, the most visited Spanish region on the mainland, is Barcelona. With its labyrinthine Gothic Quarter and numerous works of architecture and art, it is world famous. Barcelona is also known for its culinary offerings with many tapas bars and market halls.

Spain's capital Madrid also offers a lot of variety with the Royal Palace, many parks and boulevards. Here, too, art and architecture are in the foreground. The Museo del Prado is famous.

In the west of the country on the Atlantic coast is the autonomous region of Galicia with the capital Santiago de Compostela. Despite its population of only about 100,000, the city is extremely popular with tourists. This is mainly due to the historic place of pilgrimage, which with its cathedral has been the destination of the Way of St. James since 830 AD and therefore attracts numerous pilgrims every year.

Andalusia's capital Seville also has a lot of art history to offer. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is located in the Gothic cathedral. The landmark is the Alcázar Palace. The city is famous for its flamenco dances in the Triana district.

By the way, most of the tourist guests come from Great Britain. With over 15%, they make up the largest part of foreign travelers. They are followed by French and Germans. Tourism is an important economic factor in many regions of Spain. There have been no notable slumps for decades before Corona's time, and in many years the growth rates of visitors have been in the 2-digit range. The country saw a significant increase in the years after 2010, when there were mass protests and uprisings in connection with the Arab Spring in North African countries.

Development of the tourism sector in Spain from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in Spain each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 14 countries in Southern Europe.

Tourists per year in Spain

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 27.37 billion USD, or about 4.5 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 52.46 million tourists at that time and roughly 522 USD per person. Within 23 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $81.25 billion billion, 5.7 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $653 on their vacation in Spain.

Full figures for 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, are not currently available. However, national and international travel has been restricted worldwide, and some countries have even been closed off from the outside world altogether. Dramatic revenue losses are expected, with some countries experiencing losses of up to more than 80%.

Tourism receipts in Spain per year

All data for Spain in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
202036.41 m
2019126.17 m
2018124.46 m81.25 bn $5.7 %653 $
2017121.72 m75.91 bn $5.8 %624 $
2016115.56 m66.98 bn $5.4 %580 $
2015109.83 m62.45 bn $5.2 %569 $
2014107.14 m71.66 bn $5.2 %669 $
2013103.23 m68.41 bn $5.0 %663 $
201298.13 m62.94 bn $4.8 %641 $
201199.19 m67.81 bn $4.6 %684 $
201093.74 m58.35 bn $4.1 %622 $
200991.90 m55.75 bn $3.7 %607 $
200897.67 m64.42 bn $3.9 %660 $
200798.91 m59.91 bn $4.1 %606 $
200696.15 m53.16 bn $4.2 %553 $
200592.56 m49.57 bn $4.3 %535 $
200485.98 m50.00 bn $4.7 %581 $
200382.33 m43.86 bn $4.8 %533 $
200279.31 m35.47 bn $5.0 %447 $
200175.56 m33.83 bn $5.4 %448 $
200074.58 m32.66 bn $5.5 %438 $
199972.04 m33.78 bn $5.3 %469 $
199868.07 m31.59 bn $5.1 %464 $
199762.42 m28.65 bn $4.9 %459 $
199655.08 m29.75 bn $4.6 %540 $
199552.46 m27.37 bn $4.5 %522 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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