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Spain plans restrictions as it battles with tourism boom: ‘Under-priced and too many customers’

Simon Calder’s Travel

Fresh from a tour of Real Madrid’s glittering Santiago Bernabeu stadium in the Spanish capital, Guadalupe Rebollo says a holiday in Spain with her 15-year-old daughter is a better deal than one on the beach in her native Mexico.

The Rebollos are part of a record surge in foreign visitors to Spain that is helping its economy outperform European peers and create jobs at a rapid rate. However, it is also straining services such as housing and transport and stirring resentment among locals.

How to make the boom sustainable and share its benefits more widely are the tasks facing Spain’s politicians, and some of them think driving tourism upmarket is the way forward.

But for the Rebollo family from Mexico, affordability is one of the factors that makes Spain so attractive, along with its cultural highlights.

Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Madrid, Spain (REUTERS)

Rebollo, 45, said their recent vacation at home had cost them the equivalent of €2,500 (£2,137).

“Here we are going to spend a little more than that, but getting to know other countries, paying for plane tickets and tours,” she said. “The truth is that it is very good value for money.”

Millions of other visitors agree and the tourism surge has helped put Spain, long the laggard among Europe’s big economies, into the lead, now outperforming the wider 20-country eurozone, which grew a scant 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2024 compared to Spain’s 0.7 per cent.

While France cut its 2024 growth forecast and Germany only just skirted a recession, held back by a dependence on industry and a vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices and geopolitical tensions, Spain expects its economy to grow 2 per cent this year.

A man with the Canary Island flag painted on his face protests during a march against tourism in Tenerife (AP)

Expansion is being driven by growth in services as well as public and private consumption fueled by job growth, said Angel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics.

Tourism accounted for 71 per cent of real growth in the Spanish economy last year, according to tourism lobby group Exceltur. Consumption by non-residents accounted for nearly a third of Spain’s 2.5 per cent growth in 2023, according to BBVA.

But many Spaniards feel they are not reaping the benefits, and the driver of Spain’s success is increasingly being met with…

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