After Francos death, Spain became the second most popular tourist destination in the world after France and according to "The World Tourism Organisation", now receives somewhere in the region of 52 million visitors per year.Tourism generates 9% of Spains gross domestic product and employs 11% of the population. Of the 52 million foreign tourists visiting Spain each year, nearly 35% are British.
Many Spanish resorts, which originally built their reputation on lowcost no-frills holidays, are trying to move upmarket in order to sustain visitor numbers. But with the upgrades and a change in quality of hotels, restaurants, resorts and self catering complexs comes a significant rise in prices from the original good value Spanish holiday.
To a certain extent this is not only to be expected, but is a fair move on the part of the owners; after all most people realise that any increase in standards will come at a price, but what price?
At one time the biggest expenditure of your Foreign holiday was the cost of flights, with accommodation and spending at the other end looking cheap in comparison to the cost of actually getting there. Today however, there are somewhere in the region of six low cost airline operators servicing visitor numbers to Spain; it is this new found ease of travel that saw a huge rise in people taking holidays away from home and made it possible for families with children to now afford to travel abroad.
Spain has always enjoyed an affectionate telationship with the British and a vast number of the retired Ex-pats now living here are the result of those past tourists relocating on the strength of falling in love with the place in the past.
There can be no denying the allure of Spain, with a temperate climate, some superb views (unfortunately not so many on the coast now) and a more relaxed way of life. It would be naïve however, to claim any location as a complete Eldorado Spain, like anywhere else in the modern world has its fair share of social and economic troubles and is not free from drug problems, terrorism and immigration.
So how is the Spanish tourist industry keeping up with changes to the demands of todays more clued up tourist? Unfortunately not too well.
Since September 11th the tourist trade worldwide has had to rethink its whole ethos and some countries, America in particular, are working hard, not only to ensure the safety of its guests, but also to offer value for money to visitors.
Northern Europe has seen a vast increase in tourism over the last few years as a result of families seeking a good value holiday; and with some fantastic scenery and fascinating history some parts are attracting not only seasonal tourists but the more lucrative residential tourists.
It is the slow dropping off of residential tourism that has hit Spain the hardest. The need for improvements to some of the older resorts is undeniable and the Costa del Sol is riddled with hotels and holiday complexs left over from the late 70s/early 80s that are fast becoming an eyesore, but is it the answer to knock them down and replace them with apartment blocks that are then offered for sale at todays vastly inflated prices?
The old image of the British tourist returning to a rainy Heathrow with a lobster-like tan, a big sombrero and a straw donkey under his arm is one that has sadly gone forever and to my mind the world is a poorer place without it.
The reason we look back at that time with nostalgic yearning is, although that character was a subject of ridicule, at least he had a holiday in Spain and went home with dreams of one day settling down in the country he loved; how many still do this today?
For more information on Spanish tourism visit: www.spain.info - www.tripadvisor.com