During 2023, the tourism sector generated 186,596 million euros of economic value through its internal and external activity, which represents 12.8% of the total Spanish economy, according to José Luis Zoreda de la Rosa, Vice-President of Exceltur, at a press conference

Tourism, a key pillar of the Spanish economy, accounting for 12.8 % of GDP

Óscar Perelli, director de Estudios de Exceltur (izqda.) y José Luis Zoreda, vicepresidente  - FOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA
Óscar Perelli, Research Director of Exceltur (left) and José Luis Zoreda, Vice President - PHOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA

The figures for the tourism sector over the past year have led the Vice-President of Exceltur, José Luis Zoreda, to affirm that tourism is a key pillar for the Spanish economy and its growth. With 186,596 million euros of activity in 2023, representing 12.8% of GDP, figures that represent an all-time record, the important thing, said Zoreda is the sector's ability to contribute to the growth of the Spanish economy, "more than two thirds of growth is due to tourism activity".

Óscar Perelli, director of the area of Studies and Research at Exceltur, described 2023 "as the one of the expected recovery" and added that the data means 30,000 million more than what was generated in 2019 before the pandemic. "This leads to an all-time high thanks to a very positive year with strong growth in tourism activity in the last quarter."


Zoreda destacó también la capacidad de generar más y mejor empleo, ya que, pese a las dificultades para encontrar personal cualificado, se ha creado cerca de 100.000 empleos más que en el Zoreda also highlighted the capacity to generate more and better employment, as, despite the difficulties in finding qualified personnel, close to 100,000 more jobs have been created than in 2022, representing 17% of the total employment generated in Spain in 2023. Moreover, he added, the quality of employment has improved, with a drop in the temporary employment rate of 8 % and a 4.4 % increase in workers' salaries, "one of the highest increases of all sectors of the Spanish economy". Also, he added, there has been an improvement in the number of permanent and full-time contracts by 91.4%. In this sense, Perelli added that tourism is one of the sectors with the least temporary contracts, and that in four years they have reduced temporary contracts by 400,000 thousand.

Óscar Perelli (izqda.) y José Luis Zoreda durante la rueda de prensa de presentación de las cifras del turismo en España en 2023 - FOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA
Óscar Perelli (left) and José Luis Zoreda at the press conference to present the figures for tourism in Spain in 2023 - PHOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA

For the vice-president of Exceltur, these positive figures are also the result of business efforts to improve training and facilitate the habitability of employees.

This economic and employment reality has been made possible by maintaining a strong demand for travel and prevailing over other consumption alternatives, a demand which in Spain, said Zoreda, has been more important in terms of expenditure than in terms of influx, which means an improvement in tourism management, which has also occurred in foreign demand.  In this respect, he indicated that although there has been a loss of weight in markets such as Germany, this has been compensated by other nearby markets such as Portugal and France, and long-distance markets such as North America and Latin America.

As for the different subsectors and companies in the tourism chain, there are asymmetries, although the good results extend with revenues of 20.3% in 2023 compared to 2019 in hotel accommodation, 21.8% in holiday accommodation, 20.3% in urban accommodation, 17% in leisure facilities... with car rental companies with 7.0% being the one that rose the least "due to the reduction in prices in a context of greater access to fleet".

Tourist accommodation

On the other hand, Zoreda expressed his concern about the growth of tourist housing in Spain, which rose in the 22 main cities by 15,000 new places, and the problems that this entails in terms of access to housing, neighbourhood nuisance, overcrowding, the trivialisation of emblematic neighbourhoods... and the negative image of tourism.  "We are concerned about the impact on citizens and cities" and pointed out that some capitals such as Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza and Santiago de Compostela are fighting against the illegality of tourist housing, while others such as Madrid, Valencia, Seville, Alicante and Cordoba are taking it less seriously, while "it is growing at an alarming rate" in Malaga, Granada and the Canary Islands. In view of this situation, he advocated the need for the government to take action and help the communities and town councils to deal with this illegality.

Next Generation Funds

Another of the issues addressed at the press conference were the Next Generation Funds. Following a survey of 2,000 entrepreneurs in the tourism sector, Zoreda explained that the results show that almost 50% did not know about them and only 10-11% have benefited from them, meaning that 89% have not had access to these funds. Perelli added that the evaluation has been "failing" because when distributing these funds, individual projects were chosen, but he assured that "there is still capacity to improve and take advantage of them".

Zoreda y Perelli destacaron las buenas perspectivas del turismo para el año 2024 - FOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA
Zoreda and Perelli highlighted the good tourism prospects for 2024 - PHOTO/J. Á. PEDRAZA

Forecasts for 2024

Tourism GDP in real terms forecast for 2024, eliminating the effect of prices, would grow by 4.6 % over 2023, again exceeding the expected performance for the Spanish economy as a whole by 1.6 % over 2023 in real terms (Bank of Spain). If this forecast is met, Zoreda said, tourism would contribute 41.4% of the expected growth of the Spanish economy in 2024.

Although growth will continue to increase this year, Zoreda stressed that it will be more moderate and that the strongest development will occur in the first quarter due to geopolitical instability in the Mediterranean, which is encouraging tourism to go to the Canary Islands, and the early start of Easter Week. Despite the difficulties, "in 2024 we will beat all the economic value challenges, we will exceed 200,000 million euros in economic value, which will be 8.6% more than the current price levels of 2023, with a GDP of 13.4% and we will continue to be the mainstay of growth in the Spanish economy by contributing 41.4% of the real growth expected in the Spanish economy".

However, he added that businessmen think that all these figures should be taken with caution, as they believe, he said, that Spanish tourism management should also have the weight of citizenship and manage success in a different way in order to be increasingly "more socially sustainable". Zoreda also spoke of the "growing voices that question the benefits of tourism", and of the problems caused by gentrification, overcrowding, the emergence of illegal housing, environmental management... "The public must be more involved in the benefits of tourism and its distribution", he said.

Finally, he spoke of the 12th Exceltur Forum which, under the name "Purpose and commitment: towards the tourism we all want", will be held on 23 January, with the participation of the Minister of Tourism, presidents of autonomous communities, mayors and prominent businesspeople from the sector.  "We aspire to it being a platform for the new vision of tourism, backed by the country's tourism employers' associations, and to take a step forward in tackling new challenges that are successful, but which raise our prestige and are more appetising for citizens," Zoreda concluded.