Outbound Tourism to the United States in Spain

A Hot Tip about Food and Beverage Services in Spain

Posted on: 24 Feb 2010


Spain is not only one of the world’s leading tourism destinations; it is also now an important source of outbound tourists, including the United States. The number of Spaniards traveling outside of Spain has risen from 6 million in 1986 to over 17 million in 2007.


The sector is a major component of the Spanish economy and accounts for 11 percent of national GDP and over 12 percent of employment in the services sector. Spanish arrivals in the U.S. have shown positive growth since 2002. Spain is the United States’ 6th largest European market and 13th largest international market, with 516,471 arrivals in 2007. This represented a 22 percent increase over the previous year, one the highest percentage increases within EU countries. Most recent data available for the January – November 2008 period shows 605,110 visitors, a 30 percent increase over the same period the previous year, making Spain once again one of the star performers in the EU.


Conservative estimates for 2009 show arrivals in line with 2008 figures. Spain is considered to be one of the top ten long–term growth markets for inbound travel to the United States. Within Western Europe, it ranks sixth behind the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.


Major overall outbound destinations are the neighboring Portugal and France, followed by Andorra, Italy, the UK and Germany. Long haul travel accounts for approximately 10 percent of foreign travel. The most popular long haul destinations are the United States, followed by Morocco, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.


Vacation trips account for 67 percent of travel by Spaniards, while another 31 percent are visits to friends and relatives, and 22 percent is business travel. More than 60 percent of Spaniards traveling abroad do so with their families


Although sector sources indicate that the percentage of reservations made through agencies continues to decline, it is interesting to note that when Spaniards travel outside of Spain, 40 percent reserve through agencies and 11 percent use packages.


The areas that generate most U.S.-bound travelers are Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and the Basque area in the north.


Best Prospects/Services

The best prospects continue the pattern of previous years. Recent seasons have seen a substantial increase in travel during the ski season, particularly to the Colorado area. A favorable exchange rate was an important reason for this increase, although growing sophistication on the part of the Spanish client is also a factor.


The most popular destinations continue to be New York, Florida, California, Colorado (ski + drive), followed by Arizona with its Grand Canyon, and Nevada with Las Vegas. Additionally, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington D.C., Boston, National Parks, theme parks and Indian reservations are attractive destinations. Destinations with easy access to golf courses are also starting to be of interest.



The close commercial ties between the two countries and the increasing awareness and curiosity about the United States in general, particularly among the younger generation, makes Spain a market of opportunity for a wide variety of U.S. destinations.


Industry sources maintain that the increased use of Internet and online purchases combine to make online travel arrangements very attractive. Plane tickets and travel agencies/tour operators ranked first and second in the list of products sold via Internet during the first semester of 2008.


The ability to acquire airline tickets, hotel reservations and country/city information online will foster competition among local tour operators and travel agencies and lead to more competitive offers. However, despite the growing importance of the online segment, the number of sales outlets continues to increase. As indicated above, Spain has more travel agencies per capita than any other European country.


The key to success for U.S. operators and destinations is promotion. The increased competition among local travel industry companies has led to aggressive campaigns, not only in price but also in more varied product offerings. This renewed interest in broadening the range of options available to the traveler provides a good opportunity for U.S. entities to showcase destinations with special unique features as well as their services and products. Of special interest are spin-offs from the principal gateway cities, outdoor activities, and the National Parks.


Most of the current favorite destinations of Spanish tourists have agreements with incountry tour operators. They provide abundant promotional materials, information and assistance to prospective Spanish travelers and travel agencies. Some of these destinations also make extensive use of multi-media. U.S. destinations should actively promote themselves among the tour operators and the travel press in this promising market.


The VisitUSA Committee also focuses on creating greater awareness and knowledge of the United States and promoting U.S. destinations. The United States Commercial Service in Spain (CS Spain) and the VisitUSA Committee collaborate closely in promoting the opportunities of the Spanish travel market to selected U.S. destinations. CS Spain and the VisitUSA Committee look forward to working with motivated U.S. destinations to arrange FAM trips, workshops, and seminars to assist Spanish tour operators, travel agents, and the travel press to learn more about U.S. destinations.



Read the full market research report

Posted: 24 February 2010

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