From January up until the end of September 2023, Spain received 66.5 million international arrivals, up 18.8% year-on-year, and 0.6% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The main inbound tourism markets were the United Kingdom, representing around 13.8 million arrivals, France with almost 9.4 million arrivals and Germany, with almost 8.5 million arrivals.
By Autonomous Communities (or regions), from January to September (inclusive), Cataluña received the most international visitors with almost 14.2 million arrivals, followed by the Balearic Islands.
SPANISH HIGH-SPEED TRAINS HIT RECORD 8.32 MILLION PASSENGERS IN Q2 2023
The Spanish high-speed train network set a new passenger record in the second quarter of 2023, carrying 8.32 million passengers, a 33% increase from the previous year. This record encompasses all routes with multiple operators (Renfe, Avlo, Ouigo, and Iryo) offering competitive pricing and services. Notably, Avant (High-Speed Mid-Distance) services, exclusively operated by Renfe, carried an additional 3.3 million passengers, a 57% increase. Highlights of passenger growth in Q2 2023 include:
Madrid-Seville: Over one million passengers, a 30.3% increase.
Madrid-Malaga/Granada: Approximately one million passengers, a 25.8% year-on-year rise.
Madrid-Alicante: Over 750,000 passengers, a 32.1% increase.
Madrid-Valencia: An impressive 86% growth, with 1.3 million passengers.
Madrid-Barcelona: 3.6 million passengers, a 36% increase from the same quarter in 2022.
The growth of high-speed rail travel in Spain continues to provide sustainable and cost-effective transportation options.
VALENCIA: EUROPEAN GREEN CAPITAL 2024
Valencia has been named the European Green Capital for 2024 by the European Commission. This prestigious award underpins the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability and its ongoing efforts to address the challenges of climate change.
Valencia has long been committed to a more sustainable future with pioneering measurement of the city’s tourism impact. In October 2023, it was announced that the city was one of the first to receive the Mission Label from the European Union for its commitment to decarbonisation, acknowledging the pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% and achieving climate neutrality by 2030. This ambitious commitment is a culmination of the city’s various green initiatives, which have been recognised at both local and international levels, also earning the titles of European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022 and the Capital of Sustainable Food in 2017.
To be recognised as European Green Capital, the city had to pass an extensive sustainability test measuring air, noise, waste, water, nature and biodiversity, land use, eco-innovation, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, mobility, energy efficiency and governance.
During the Green Capital Year, Valencia will unveil a dedicated activity programme to highlight the city’s green efforts, including major international events and other smaller city activities to involve both residents and visitors. Learn more here
2024: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE ANNIVERSARIES
The oldest five World Heritage Sites in Spain are approaching their 40th anniversary, having been designated in 1984. These include:
Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada
Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid
The Historic Centre of Córdoba
Works of Antoni Gaudí
2024 will also mark 40 years of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve located on the Bay of Biscay coast in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1984 and is one of the most richly diverse natural landscapes in the Basque Country.
2024 will also mark the 25th UNESCO World Heritage anniversary of the old quarter of Ibiza Town. This accolade recognises Ibiza’s cultural and architectural value. Some of the island’s treasures include one of the best-preserved Renaissance coastal fortresses in the Mediterranean, the old town acropolis of Dalt Vila (meaning ‘high wall’) with its sprawling network of ancient streets and squares, and the Phoenician remains of Sa Caleta and its Carthaginian tombs, where Punic settlers traded over 2,500 years ago.
the Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca BRING SPAIN’S UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE COUNT TO 50
In September 2023, the prehistoric sites of Talayotic Menorca were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, bringing the total number of sites in Spain to 50.
The addition of the prehistoric sites of Talayotic Menorca is a testament to the island’s prehistoric culture and heritage. Situated in agro-pastoral landscapes, the sites display an incredible diversity of ancient settlements and burials. The constructions are unique to Menorca and include funerary naves, circular houses, and monuments such as taulas and talayots which UNESCO consider to be exceptional examples of Cyclopean architecture’s evolution over fifteen hundred years.
FINALISTS OF SPAIN’S 2024 CITY OF GASTRONOMY revealed
The four finalist cities for Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy (CEG) have been announced and include Alicante, Antequera, Castellón and Oviedo. The prestigious award, decided jointly by travel journalists and the Hospitality Association of Spain, was awarded to Cuenca, Castilla–La Mancha in 2023.
For 2024, the competition is more competitive than ever:
Alicante, Valencia, has over 1,700 registered gastronomic establishments and two local brands promoting the city’s gastronomy: Alicante, city of rice, and Alicante gourmet.
Antequera, Andalucia, has a long history of culinary excellence, with the region famous for its delicious pastries. Local olive oil is the secret ingredient for much of the city’s gastronomy, used in dishes such as deep-fried partridge, rabbit stew and seasonal salads.
Castellón, Valencia, is a seafood paradise with an abundance of simple fresh dishes such as giant prawns and steamed mussels. The coastal city is famous for delicious seafood paella.
Ovideo, Asturias, is a finalist for Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy for the third time, with its main offering consisting of a range of mouth-watering fabada (bean stew), cider, cachopo (veal), cheeses and seafood.
The city awarded Spain’s Capital of Gastronomy will hold gastronomic festivities throughout the year.
SEVEN NEW VÍAS VERDES BUILT IN 2023
In Spain, there are more than 3,300 kilometres of disused railway infrastructure that have been converted into cycle and hiking routes within the framework of the Greenways Programme, coordinated by the Spanish Railways Foundation. They are known as Vías Verdes – Green Ways.
In 2023 seven new greenways were added to the network. These include:
Benidorm Greenway, Valencia
Chicharra Greenway (Cieza section), Murcia
Cieza Flowering Greenway, Murcia
Iron Road, Castile and León
Tharsis Odiel Greenway, Andalucía
Vigo-Redondela Greenway (Chapela section), Galicia
Vigo-Redondela Greenway (Urzáiz-Teis section), Galicia
2024: 100 YEARS OF THE MODERN BARCELONA METRO
In 2024, the Spanish city of Barcelona will mark the anniversary of the full opening of its Metro train system (Metro de Barcelona).
This innovative system, first opened in 1863 and inspired by the London Underground, was expanded to its current state in 1924 to include additional lines. In total, there are now 12 lines, connecting both residential and commercial parts of the city (Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia has its own stop).
The Barcelona Metro has 189 Metro stations across the city and a tram line also operating above ground (which began operations in the 1870s, pulled by horse). Learn more here
2024: A JUBILEE YEAR FOR CARAVACA DE LA CRUZ, MURCIA
Every seven years since 2003, the holy city of Caravaca de la Cruz, located in the region of Murcia, celebrates a Jubilee Year which attracts thousands of pilgrims to the city seeking plenary indulgence. The last Jubilee year in 2017 saw roughly 500,000 pilgrims and travellers gathering in Caravaca with many more expected in 2024. The city is the fifth holy city given this distinction by the Pope, alongside Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, and Santo Toribio de Liébana. Learn more here
ANDALUCIA FLAMENCO MUSEUM TO OPEN IN JEREZ
In 2024, Jerez de la Frontera is set to unveil the highly anticipated Andalucia Flamenco Museum. Recognised as one of the primary strongholds of Flamenco, Jerez’s cultural identity is intricately intertwined with the art of Flamenco, wine, and horses.
Hailed as a “first-class” cultural institution by the regional government, the museum will spotlight the city’s rich Flamenco heritage, focusing on its preservation, documentation, and promotion of its extraordinary historical and heritage value that symbolises Andalucia’s identity worldwide.
Flamenco, as an art form, has been acknowledged by UNESCO since November 2010. Learn more here.
BARCELONA TO HOST 37TH AMERICA’S CUP IN 2024
America’s Cup, the most important regatta in the world, will take place in Barcelona between August and October 2024. It is the 3rd sport competition with the highest economic impact on the host country, after the Olympic Games and the World Cup. Barcelona will become the first and only venue in the world to host the three main sport events: the World Cup in 1982, the Olympic Games in 1992, and the America’s Cup in 2024.
For the first time, there will be a Women’s America’s Cup and Youth America’s Cup. It will be sailed during the final stages of the Challenger Selection Series and the opening of America’s Cup Match itself. Spectators will be able to follow the competition for free from the Port of Barcelona.
SPAIN ANNOUNCES NEW CAMPAIGN PROMOTING THE COUNTRY AS A TAX-FREE SHOPPING DESTINATION FOR BRITISH TRAVELLERS
On Monday 06 November 2023, Turespaña launches a new advertising campaign aimed at British young people, families, couples, and seniors to promote Spain as the perfect shopping destination. The campaign reminds UK residents that, since the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, they can recover VAT on their purchases in Spain.
In 2022, UK visitors to Spain accounted for 17,000 billion euros of total expenditure, representing 19.7% of the total international tourism expenditure made in the country last year. Tax-free purchases form an important part of this figure: British travellers in Spain spent over 715 million euros on tax-free purchases in 2022, and up until September 2023 tax-free spending already reached 646 million euros.
For more information on Spain as a travel destination, please visit www.spain.info