A few days ago the national Government’s Industry department published tourism figures from its tourism institute Frontur showing that the Canaries received the most visitors in a May since records began in 1995, and that in fact the first five months of 2015 were better than the same period in 2014, a year which was the best in its turn since records began (link). Now, Industria’s tourism spending statistics from Egatur (Encuesta de Gasto Turístico) show that not only do we have more tourists, the ones we have top the league for tourist spending in the whole of Spain.
I know the cynicism these articles engender but these figures are not produced by Turismo here, nor the Canarian Government: they aren’t actually produced in the Canaries at all. They are, rather, national statistics collected by impartial studies for a national Government department that has no interest in making the Canaries, particularly, look any better than any other region. It doesn’t matter to the national Government in Madrid whether the Canaries come top or bottom of tourism leagues, any more than it matters to them where Andalucia, or Galicia, or Valencia place in the table.
Egatur’s figures show that tourist spending of €5.5m in the Canaries over the first five months of this year was up 1.3% compared with the same period in 2014, and that May’s spend alone was 16.7% more than May last year. The Canaries heads the list of tourist spend in Spain with 24.8% of the entire country’s income from visitors. British and German visitors are the ones who spend the most, despite French and Dutch tourists leading the field for visitor numbers.
All inclusive offers are frequently blamed for killing tourism here over the past several years. But the simple fact is that despite all attempts to portray the Canaries as “empty”, or “dead”, tourism is soaring. If it is not readily visible to those in traditional tourist areas it is because the new tourists are not frequenting traditional tourist areas, or the facilities which are on offer in them. Moreover, all-inclusive deals here are not at the luxury end of the market, which is where the growth is located. It is not the luxury tourists who wear the armbands and fail to populate the “traditional” bars which so many see empty.
Luxury tourists stay in large hotels where there are spas, or golf, and a choice of multiple restaurants, with extra “excursions” and activities like diving, yachting, or star watching led by qualified specialists and professionals – all of which are paid for separately to the hotel accommodation. And this sector employs considerable numbers of people directly as well as indirectly providing a significant and varied amount of business for Canarians in the wider economy. The Canarian Government will use these figures to reinforce its claim that its protectionist policy of restriction and quality control, modernization and up-marketism, is working. And with these figures, produced entirely independently of the Canaries, they could reasonably claim that they have every justification to do so.