Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Wed August 24 2016

Is Spain's 'Safe' Image Drawing Tourists?

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | August 24, 2016

Is Spain's 'Safe' Image Drawing Tourists?

Photo by Jason Leppert

Some destinations in Europe have seen a tourism industry downturn after a series of terrorist attacks over the past 18 months. The tourism slump has not affected the whole continent, however. It seems that instead of choosing to stay home, a number of tourists are opting for countries that have not been targets of the recent attacks. 

France has been hit especially hard by the slump. At the same time, Portugal, Italy and especially Spain are benefiting as tourist traffic shifts way from France. 

The good news: tourism is still strong worldwide

Overall, the global travel industry is doing fairly well according to the recent Economic Impact Report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council. The organization predicts that travel spending will grow by 3.1 percent this year. That is a respectable number especially considering that the global economy is only expected to grow by 2.3 percent 

So rather than staying home, people are choosing places that they think are safer than traditionally popular destinations. Recent terror attacks and ongoing tensions have certainly hurt tourism in France and Belgium. Paris alone is expected to lose €1 billion this year as tourists seek other destinations.

Read More: Paris Reportedly Lost $850 million in Tourism Revenue in First Half of 2016

Parts of Europe thriving on the shift in travel traffic

Spain, the world’s third most popular destination in terms of numbers of international visitors, is expected to set a new record for number of foreign arrivals in 2016. People are also giving Portugal and Italy, the world’s fifth most popular tourist country, another look.  

Madrid and Barcelona might seem like alternatives for tourists seeking the cosmopolitan vibe and culture of Paris. And the beaches on the Costa del Sol and on the Balearic Islands are getting more traffic this summer as people seek alternatives to places like Egypt and Tunisia, which have also been hit by terror attacks targeting tourists. In short, Spain's already-healthy tourism industry can grow on several different fronts.  

Shift happening outside of Western Europe

Other parts of the world are also looking to capitalize on tourists' shift in focus. Australia has been trying to draw a greater number of travelers from the Asia Pacific. Now, many of the people in these target countries (China, Japan, South Korea) are considering Australia simply because they deem it a safe alternative to terror-hit Europe. 

Even tourism in Bulgaria, which sees relatively few visitors, is getting a boost because of recent events in Turkey. The country’s Black Sea coastline has seen more visitors this year as people look for an alternative to Turkey, which has been beset by terror attacks and civil unrest that appears to be getting worse, not better. 
Spain, already a major destination for tourists, seems to be in a good position to take advantage of the shift away from France and other European countries that have been in the news for terrorism lately.

France will always draw a significant number of tourists, but if travelers who would have gone there continue to opt for other destinations, it may no longer be the number one country in Europe for tourism. 

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