UK loses its top spot as Spain’s most important foreign tourism market for the first time in decades as French holidaymakers outnumber Britons due to Covid-19 pandemic

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for the lull in British tourism to Spain 
  • More French holidaymakers picked Spain in July than Brits or Germans 
  • Only 378,000 British tourists visited the country in July this year 
  •  In comparison, 2.2 million holidayed in Spain in the same month last year 

Britain has been knocked off its traditional top spot as Spain’s most important foreign tourism market for the first time in decades.

More French holidaymakers picked Spain in July than Brits or Germans in a historic reversal of the sunshine destination’s overall tourism figures.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for the dent in the UK’s love affair with Spain.

Britain has been knocked off its traditional top spot as Spain’s most important foreign tourism market for the first time in decades. Above, a view of Palma de Mallorca airport in July 

More French holidaymakers picked Spain in July than Brits or Germans in a historic reversal of the sunshine destination’s overall tourism figures. Above, beachgoers at Barceloneta beach in Barcelona on September 4 

Only 378,000 British tourists visited the country in July ahead of Downing Street’s introduction of new quarantine rules on returning holidaymakers, compared to the 2.2 million that put the UK in top spot in July last year.

The number of French visitors were also down by 58 per cent compared to the 82 per cent UK plunge with 597,000 French nationals picking Spain this July compared to 1.43 million last July.

Germany kept second place with 432,302 tourists compared to 1.24 million in July, a drop of 65 per cent.

The change been linked to the fact that eight out of ten French holidaymakers who travelled to Spain in July did so by road.

France’s travel advice also included a July 24 recommendation to its citizens to only avoid Catalonia and not the Balearics or other popular holiday areas like the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol.

By contrast 94 per cent of Brits who reached Spain in July did so by plane, official figures from the country’s National Statistics Institute INE show.

Britain’s end-of-July quarantine decision and removal of Spain from its ‘green’ foreign travel list was a blanket one, affecting all areas of the mainland as well as the Canary Islands and Balearics.

It led to the likes of TUI cancelling flights to the sunshine destination as the UK government advised against non-essential travel to Spain and many families opting for staycations.

Only 378,000 British tourists visited the country in July ahead of Downing Street’s introduction of new quarantine rules on returning holidaymakers, compared to the 2.2 million that put the UK in top spot in July last year. Above, passengers arrive at Palma de Mallorca airport on July 30 

With Spain unlikely to be removed from the UK quarantine list any time soon, Britain’s historic annual foreign tourism top spot now looks in danger too.

Last year 18 million Brits picked Spain for their holidays, way above second and third-placed Germany and France with around 11 million tourists each.

The UK has been Spain’s most important foreign tourist market for decades after it began to open up to northern European holidaymakers as a sun and sea destination under former dictator Francisco Franco.

Spain first became Britain’s favourite holiday destination nearly 20 years ago.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show Spain received 12.5 million British tourists in 2002 whereas France was the preferred holiday destination of 12.1 million Brits.

Respected Spanish newspaper El Pais billed it at the time as ‘the first year Spain had become the preferred holiday destination of the British.’

A year later a World Tourism Organisation chief criticised Benidorm’s ‘excessive’ dependency on British tourism.

Britain maintained its historic Spanish number one foreign tourism ranking in the first three months of this year before the Covid-19 crisis led to Spain shutting its borders to holidaymakers from abroad for the following three months until June 21.

Figures showing the numbers of foreign tourists who visited Spain in August, due out shortly, are expected to put France above Britain again.

The UK has been Spain’s most important foreign tourist market for decades after it began to open up to northern European holidaymakers as a sun and sea destination under former dictator Francisco Franco. Above, passengers queue at the Jet2 check-in desk at Palma de Mallorca 

The plunge in the number of British holidaymakers picking Spain has been blamed for the early closure of hotels in UK-popular resorts like Benidorm and Magaluf.

Benidorm mayor Toni Perez reacted to the UK quarantine decision earlier this year by admitting: ‘We very much regret it. In Benidorm we’ve worked a lot to minimise the risks and we haven’t got any problems here at the moment.

‘It’s a very safe destination with beaches which are very well organised and businesses which have established protocols and are applying them.

‘The problem in Spain is in certain areas, but in the end this decision affects us all and especially resorts like ours whose main market is British.

‘We are going to continue working along the lines we have been up to now, knowing that what we’ve been doing has been done well and that we offer a safe destination thanks to the hard work of everyone here.’

Tony Mayor, president of the Benidorm and Costa Blanca hotel association Hosbec, described it at the time as a ‘hammer blow’ and predicted at the start of this month less than 15 of Benidorm’s 140 hotels could remain open in the famous resort by the end of September.

Autumn and winter are normally favourites with foreign holidaymakers including British pensioners seeking to avoid the town’s high temperatures in summer.

Mr Mayor said ‘In autumn and winter we rely on international tourism and elderly holidaymakers who are an at-risk group and are more afraid.

‘If there’s no family tourism because the schools are starting again, there’s not there much margin when it comes to keeping hotels open.

‘I’m not saying some won’t stay open, but it will only be around 10 to 15.’

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