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City of Marbella on Costa del Sol, Andalusia


 by Rose Maramba



In 2023, Spain was visited by 85.1 million international tourists, according to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the Tourist Movements at the Borders (FRONTUR). The brilliant record, which represents an increase of 18.9% over 2022, makes the legendary land of the Man of La Mancha the world’s top tourist destination.

Windmills in the municipality of Consuegra in the Castilla-La Mancha region, central Spain. These restored windmills could well have been the “giants” who oppressed the people that the medieval knight errant Don Quixote fought with in the epic novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes

The tourists spent a whopping €108,662 million/$117.06 in today’s exchange rate (€108.66 billion/$117.06 billion in American lingo) in Spain.

Pending its confirmation of data for 2023, France, the perennial Number One, is expected to slide down to second place, attracting an estimated 79 million to 85 million foreign visitors.

Tourists spent €108.66 billion/$117.06 billion in Spain in 2023, contributing a sizeable chunk to the country’s GDP

The Spanish tourism industry typically contributes a sizeable percentage to Spain’s GDP. In 2022, for instance, activities related to tourism generated €155,946 million (€156 billion), as the INE would point out. That’s 11.6% of the country’s GDP, 3.9 percentage points more than in 2021. The characteristic tourism segments (Gastronomy, Health, Shopping, Cruise, etc.) spawned more than 1.9 million jobs, a remarkable 9.3% of total Spanish employment!

Already in 2021, Spain recorded the highest score in the Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI), winning 5.2 points out of the maximum 7, said the department of research and development of the German company Statista in October 2023. The TTDI methodology involves analysis of “a range of factors and policies supporting the development of the travel and tourism sector in a sustainable and resilient way.”

Japan and the United States tied with Spain. France and Germany were next with a score of 5.1.

There’s a 46% upsurge in the arrival of US travelers

The Brits, along with the Germans and the French, are the biggest groups of tourists that come to Spain

As in previous years, the UK, France, and Germany were the biggest market sources for Spanish tourism in 2023. Not counting transit travelers or one-day visitors, for the first eight months of 2023 (the latest record available as of this writing)11,805,266 million Brits came; 8,383,623 French; and 7,175,942 Germans. (Source)

Incidentally, 2,596,813 American tourists traveled to Spain, representing a 46.3% upsurge relative to the previous year.

Ceiling in the nave of Gaudi’s Gothic Revival-Art Nouveau Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona. The columns are designed to resemble trees and branches.

The most popular tourist destinations in Spain were the Autonomous Communities of Catalonia (Capital: Barcelona); the Balearic Islands (Capital: Palma de Mallorca, in Majorca); and Andalusia (Capital: Seville).

The Comunidad de Madrid (Capital: Madrid, at once the Capital of Spain) may not be among the biggest tourist favorites; still, this Autonomous Community smack bang in the geographic center of Spain enjoyed a powerful thrust of 40% in foreign arrivals, especially American and French, totaling 4,980,125.


> Featured image/HAC GLOBAL, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons, cropped
> €500 bills/Friedrich Haag, CC BY-SA4.0
> Windmills/Sonsoles Jimenez from Pixabay. Croped and edited.
> Boy with the Union Jack/King’s Church International from Unsplash

> US passport/Ajay Suresh, CC BY2.0, Flickr
> Sagrada Familia/SBA73, CC BY-SA2.0, Wikipedia