Tourism is a wonderful business. Instead of a fair trade between nations, it’s just an invisible export. The punters arrive, get sunburnt, see something, acquire a tattoo… and go home again, empty-handed. Their money remains safely in the hands of the shopkeepers and the hoteliers. What a business. However, it’s a gamble that they may not be back next season. The service may not have been good, or they may have been rumbled over the diarrhoea scam, or maybe Brexit finally pulled the pound down and the cost of a week or two in Benidorm rose accordingly.
Britons may account for 20% of all foreign visitors to Spain, but close behind them are the Germans, the Dutch and the Italians. All of whom are just as likely to choose another destination next year (especially the Italians, who, unlike the rest of us, are always moaning about Spanish cooking).
Other countries are competing for Spain’s amazing 80 million-strong tourist business, and tourists may easily choose another country next time – after all, there’s not much loyalty among the holidaymakers. Back home with a sun-tan, it’s nice to be able to say, ‘oh this year we went to Miami’. Then there’s the media: one wrong word in the Daily Express or Bild Zeitung and they’ll all be trotting down to cancel their visit to Ibiza.
Other countries have had problems – the terrorists, political upheavals or maybe a shortage of gin – but now we hear that Turkey, Egypt and Tunis are considering devaluing their currencies precisely to bleed off (sorry) some of Spain’s massive harvest.
Now is the time for travel fairs, with the London World Travel Market closing its doors this Wednesday, followed in due course by the FITUR in Madrid (January 17 – 21) and the ITB in Berlin (March 7 – 11). All of these major markets are there to commercialise their own resorts and offers, with special prices, ‘all-inclusives’ and a host of other tactics. Last year, worldwide international tourist arrivals rose to 1,235 million people – now that makes one’s fingers tingle. Our tourist councillors, plus their entourage, will be busy.