Spain: The travel sector is a key industry

Over 80 million tourists travelled to Spain in 2018, securing 2.6 million local jobs and supporting the entire economy. At almost 90 billion euros, tourist spending was at a record level – and it more than compensated for the Spanish trade deficit.

Higher growth and employment

Spain’s gross domestic product has been rising for the past five years, recently by around three percent annually. This is above-average growth compared to other EU Member States. The labour market has obviously benefited from this positive development, and the unemployment rate fell to around 14.8 percent in the third quarter of 2018 – its lowest level since 2009 and almost half the peak rate in 2013.

Popularity as a tourism destination boosts the economy

Tourism makes an important contribution to the country’s economic health and Spain is a very popular international destination. In 2017 it overtook the USA as the second-most popular destination in the world, and the 2018 figures showed a similar picture. A booming travel industry delivers significant revenue. Foreign tourists spent almost 90 billion euros on goods and services in Spain. This revenue more than compensates for the country’s traditionally high foreign trade deficit. The trade balance has been positive since 2013 thanks to tourism. The travel industry is therefore of paramount importance to Spain.

Tourism creates new perspectives

"Spain is proud to be one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. Tourism is an important source of revenue, accounting for 12 percent of our gross domestic product and securing 13 percent of all jobs in Spain. Tourists aren’t just good for tour operators; they additionally benefit local cafés and businesses. Tourism also makes a key contribution to the protection of our cultural and natural heritage. My home town of Seville has profited to a great extent from having been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1987. A third positive effect of tourism is that it promotes social justice. One of the central aspects of Spanish development policy is the exportation of our proven tourism training system to places such as Africa or Latin America. Helping to create jobs on those continents is also in the EU’s interest.

Our longstanding relationship with TUI is a Spanish success story. The travel company has been a strong partner that has helped us to build our tourism industry. TUI now brings almost seven million tourists to our country – with all the positive effects on our economy and population." 

Ricardo Martínez Vázquez, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Germany

TUI has a strong presence in Spain

The positive development in Spanish tourism has only been possible on the basis of strong and dependable partnerships, with long-term strategies and investments. TUI Group has been a partner of Spain for many years now. Its strategically significant “Destination Experiences” unit is based in Palma de Mallorca. Destination Experiences manages the incoming agencies and their 9,000 employees, who provide services such as transfers and excursions to guests at the destinations. TUI’s affiliate, RIU Hotels & Resorts, is also headquartered on Mallorca. Over recent years the travel company has created many new jobs in Spain and it currently has 10,000 employees there. 

TUI Group provides holidays for almost seven million guests in Spain – as tour operator, hotel operator and cruise ship operator. It owns nearly 100 hotels in Spain – more than in any other country. In 2018 TUI Airlines operated 400 flights a week to Spanish holiday regions. The travel company’s cruise ships and their many guests also regularly call at 24 Spanish ports.

TUI Hotels – pioneers in environmental protection and energy efficiency

TUI Group is committed to sustainable growth. High-quality holidays with low environmental impacts are the future. The some 90 TUI-owned hotels in Spain are sustainability pioneers and in many respects they are setting industry standards. The ROBINSON Club Cala Serena on Mallorca has three biomass boilers that substantially reduce its carbon footprint. In 2017 RIU achieved a 1.6 percent reduction in energy consumption per guest and night at its hotels, and, in a pilot project at the RIU Palace Meloneras on Gran Canaria, it is testing additional measures to boost energy efficiency.

Advancing certification

Another key priority for TUI is to raise awareness of sustainability among its hotel partners and to encourage them to embrace it. Minimum criteria are contractually defined and TUI actively encourages its hotel owners to obtain Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) certification. TUI isn’t just promoting sustainable tourism in Spain. In 2018 over 9.2 million guests enjoyed sustainable holidays at destinations worldwide – two thirds more than three years ago.

Year after year the tourism sector underlines its enormous significance for the Spanish economy. TUI Group will continue to actively pursue this strategy with its Spanish partners in the future.

The challenge of Brexit


British tourists are important to the Spanish tourism industry. Over one in five holidaymakers visiting Spain is from the United Kingdom. They profit from the uncomplicated travel arrangements within the EU. We have to make sure that they don’t lose this freedom.