- When we think of Spain we generally think of it as the sun destination to which we have been travelling in great numbers for decades. More latterly we think of it as the place where the Irish have bought so much property. And we think of it too as the source of many students who come here to perfect their English.
- But you might be surprised to know that it is becoming quite a strong source market for Irish tourism. Last year almost 250,000 Spaniards came here and that’s up 90% over the past 5 years.
- The Spanish economy has enjoyed a period of strong growth like our own. Though like our own too, a good portion of this was driven by a construction boom, and the Spanish economy is presently adjusting painfully to the aftermath of the property bubble.
- At just over half a million sq kilometres, about the size of California, Spain has a population of 44 million. Its Government is a Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy.
- Spain has a fascinating history. The Celts were there in big numbers for centuries, and under the Roman Empire, Hispania was one of the Empire’s most important regions. Later again it came under Germanic rule, and by the 8th century the entire peninsula came under Muslim rulers, mainly Moors from North Africa. Gradually its Christian kingdoms rolled back Muslim rule, which was finally extinguished in 1492, the same year Columbus discovered America. In the following centuries Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and a major colonial power.The empire expanded from early settlements in the Caribbean to include Central America, most of South America, Mexico, and parts of Southwestern United Sates. However, by the mid 19th century Spain had lost almost all its North, Central and South American colonies. The remaining 3, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines, were occupied by the United States following the Spanish American War of 1898.
Much of the 20th century was a troubled time for Spain. A bitter civil war was fought from 1936 to 1939, with large numbers of Irish volunteers managing to find themselves fighting on both sides. The nationalist forces under General Franco emerged victorious if controversially, having had support from Germany and Italy.
Spain was neutral during the second world war, and under the harsh Franco era enjoyed poor enough economic progress until the 1960’s, when it gradually transformed into an industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. On the death of Franco in 1975, Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state and in 1978 a new Spanish Constitution and democracy arrived. Spain joined the EU in 1986.
- Spain has a rich artistic culture from Velazquez in the 17th century to Goya in the 18th and 19th century, to Picasso, Dali and Miro in the 20th century.
- Its main economic sectors include agriculture (especially fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine), fishing, textiles, automobiles and tourism.
- The Spaniards take over 13 million visits abroad each year, of which 53% are primarily holidays. They spend over €10 billion. France, Portugal, the UK and Italy are the most popular destiinations. Perhaps not surprisingly August and September are the main months for travelling abroad.
- Spain is the world’s 3rd most visited country after the USA and France, attracting over 80 million visitors a year.
- 67% of Spanish visitors abroad stay in hotels, and visiting cities is the most popular choice of holiday.
- Its largest cities are: Madrid 3 million, Barcelona 1.6 million, Valencia 800,000, Seville 700,000 and Malaga 600,000.
- Spain is Ireland’s 5th largest market in Continental Europe. Given its emergence as a strong economy, its potential is considerable. Tourism Ireland has offices in Madrid and market aggressively throughout the year, with Spanish and Irish based trade partners. Greatly improved air access in recent years is a major help in growing the business, with direct access now from 19 points to Dublin, Cork and Shannon. It has to be acknowledged however that many of these routes are sustained primarily by Irish originating business heading for the sun.
- As Spanish visitor numbers edge past one quarter of a million annually, it becomes a significant market for Irish tourism. Mind you it’s still a long way short of the 1.5 million visits to Spain made annually by the Irish. But the potential is there. There are just 4 million of us; there are 44 million of them.
- For more information, much more, click here to visit the Tourism Ireland website.
- Next up – Italy.