Spain has maintained its second position as the receiver of tourists of the world in 2004, just behind France, with a growth of two percent, that made up by the arrival of more than 52 million tourists, according to an analysis by the Bank of Spain.
However, this increase is a very moderate result in comparison with the majority of the world destinations, that registered this year, increments of two or even three digits growth, and given the maturity of the Spanish market, its world privileged location can be threatened in the following years. For that, Spain is faced with a challenge that calls for a re-orientation of its tourist strategy. In this sense, 2004 has to take into account all the tourism sectors on the need to offer a quality product that differentiate us from the rest of the sun and beach destinations. The progressive lost in competitiveness in this tourism segment in Spain against the countries from the Eastern Mediterranean has influenced the drop of revenue by tourism in 2004. Even though in smaller measure, it was also contributed by, the 11-M terrorist attack in Madrid, declares the Bank of Spain in its analysis. However, the impact that the terrorist attack has in tourism was lesser than expected, as shown when the travel industry came back with more resistance to the external threats apart from the crisis suffered by the 11-S. Among other important factors of economic nature that have influenced the year in this sector, was the strong position of the Euro against the Dollar and the rise of the European destinations derived from it, as well as the increase in price of gasoline, which dampened the recuperation of air transportation and has obliged many airlines to increase their tariffs.
The strong European currency, on one hand, has stopped the recuperation of American and Japanese tourism this year, which have the largest purchasing power. On the other hand, it has pushed the growth of the outgoing Spanish market, which in other destinations such as Latin America, is considered as one of the most important. The growth in the Spanish international travel has dropped to more than 5 percent from the surplus in terms of tourism, with a 0.54 percent decrease in the revenues and an increase of 21.35 percent of the payment during the first eight months of the year.
For the airlines companies, there has been a substantial cut in costs, whose results this year, among other measures, was the removal of free catering on board to remain competitive with the low cost airlines that have strengthened its position in Spain and flights to Latin America, such as the case of Air Madrid. Also to highlight in the airline industry, the agreement has been reached by Spain with the Chinese authorities to establish regular flights between the two countries by various Spanish companies. In this way, it open doors to the outgoing Asia tourism, especially to China, which will be the country that generates the most international travel in the future with a middle class that is already equal to the number of the Spanish population. The price war was not only found in the airline sector but also in the hotel industry. It has lost profitability due to the launch of last-minute offers on the oversupply of rooms in Spain and the transfer of tourists to other types of accommodation, according to the complaints by the owners. The traditional travel agencies have added up the loss of profitability, while those in Internet has made profits for the first time, thanks to the unstoppable growth of individual tourism in detriment of the traditional tour package organised by tour operators.