Spain’s leading industry

  • Tourism

Spain’s leading industry

Foreign visitors score Spain 8.5 out of 10 for satisfaction
Foreign visitors score Spain 8.5 out of 10 for satisfaction

Sun and sand, culture and heritage, food and infrastructure: these are the main pillars of the tourism industry, whose role in the economy continues to grow.

Foreign visitors score Spain 8.5 out of 10 for satisfaction 

Spain is a synonym of quality tourism, as visitor satisfaction levels show. The sixty million foreign visitors per year to the country have awarded Spain’s tourist services a “B+” grade (8.5 out of 10).

Statistics from the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism show that eight out of ten visitors to Spain repeat the experience. And more than 40% of tourists have been here ten or more times.

Spain attracts the third largest number of tourists of any country in the world and scores second in tourist revenue, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). The EU’s statistical office, Eurostat identifies Spain as the leading European destination in number of trips and also the top destination for holiday tourism.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranks Spain as the world’s third most popular destination for business tourism. Madrid and Barcelona come second and fourth, respectively in the list of cities hosting the highest number of conferences, trade fairs and conventions. 


The quality of Spanish tourist infrastructures is attracting ever larger numbers of visitors. Spain has the second most hotel places of any country in Europe and is among the world's top ten with the best transport facilities, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.

Spain is particularly well-known for its sports facilities, catering to disciplines such as golf, skiing and water sports. This infrastructure has turned it into the world’s second most popular destination, after the US. And for those who just want to chill out, the country boasts 120 spas. 

Nature and Cuisine

Another of Spain's key selling points as a leisure destination is its natural diversity, with fifteen national parks and 126 nature parks. The country also boasts one of the highest numbers of Unesco biosphere reserves in the world.

The Spanish enjoy three hundred days of sun a year; more than 2,000 kilometres of greenways (rail trails) and 7,800 kilometres of coastline with 573 Blue Flag beaches.

Anything else? Of course! Spain boasts some of the world’s most renowned cuisine. It has the world’s second-best restaurant and a number of top-ten chefs. 

European majority

The immense majority of visitors come from Europe. Chief among these are tourists from the UK, France, Germany and Italy. In recent years, the number of visitors from Asia and the US has also grown.

The most popular destinations for foreign visitors are:

-Catalonia, the region preferred by French, British, Asian and Dutch visitors.

-The Canary Islands, a prime destination for British, Germans and French.

-The Balearic Islands: attract Germans, French and Swiss.

-Andalusia: popular among the Dutch, French and British.

-Community of Valencia: visited by French, Italians and Dutch.

-Community of Madrid: the favourite for Asians and Italians. 

Cultural wealth

Spain has a total of 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the second-highest number of any country in the world.

In recent years there has been in increase in the influx of tourists from predominantly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria and Indonesia

Capitalising on that boom is one of the industry's great challenges for the twenty-first century. A report prepared by Dinard Estándar estimates that tourist spending by Muslim visitors will increase by 52% between now and 2020. As a result, an increasing number of tourist companies –particularly hotel chains– have chosen to extend their specific offer for this segment.

Spain now has a number of certified establishments that do not sell alcoholic beverages and which have removed pork products from their menus to adapt to the preferences of Muslim tourists. 

Camino de Santiago

More than 250,000 people each year now travel the Camino de Santiago. The Camino is another focus of interest for visitors to the country, with more and more travelling the distance from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. Most hail from Europe, principally Germany, Italy, Portugal, France and the UK. However we also receive visitors from the US –fourth in the list of pilgrim home countries and such far-flung spots as Taiwan, New Zealand, Belize and Cape Verde.


Economic Driver: Tourism in Spain contributes to 10.9% of the GDP and generates 12% of the country’s employment.

Number of International Tourists: Around 65 million.

Estimated Expenditure of Visitors: 63.094 billion Euros.

Hotel Beds: Around 3.2 million. Over 50% are superior category, 4 and 5 stars. A further 15,000 rural tourism establishments must be added.

Transports: Spain has a road network of over 31,000 km, a rail network of 15,400 km, of which almost 3,000 km is high speed, and 46 aerodromes.