Tourism figures bring real hope for Canaries

Update 19 February: The Cabildo has announced that Tenerife started the year with an increase of 3.7% on last January’s tourist numbers. After last year’s record-breaking figures, President Carlos Alonso said that figures were again up whichever data one looked at, and that January’s visitors boded well for 2014. Some 402,494 holidaymakers stayed in tourist accommodation here last month, both hotels, apartments and rural houses.

British and German visitors continue to be Tenerife’s two main  markets, with Scandinavian visitor numbers increasing some 15%. Russian holidaymakers are the fourth major market. Also showing good growth, however, are the markets the tourist authorities are now giving paying attention, namely France, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and eastern Europe. The only figures to decrease were the Dutch and Belgian markets.

Update 21 January 2014: I said below in my 23 December post that Turismo was jubilant that 2013 would pass into the record books for the number of visitors in a complete year – the current record was 10,210,000 in 2011. And, indeed, the Canaries did break the record, with 10.63 million visitors throughout last year, up 421,599 from 2011’s record. The good news was released today by the Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo. The biggest markets continue to be Germany, the UK and the Scandinavian countries, but Russia and Italy are increasingly strong.

Update 26 December 2013: We now know that tourist numbers are up despite impressions of “it never being so quiet”. Now, another myth that “they” are all staying in all-inclusive accommodation and not going outside to spend is itself shattered with official figures showing not only that tourist spending is up, but that spending by tourists who are staying in hotels has risen the most.

Statistics from November show that foreign tourist spending here grew 10.1% throughout 2013 compared with 2012, giving a total spend of €10.5 billion, a figure that itself represents nearly a fifth of all tourist spending in Spain, putting the Canaries in third place after Catalonia and the Balearics. The figures have been produced by survey carried out by the Spain’s Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo. In November specifically, thanks no doubt to our climate attracting winter sun visitors, that percentage shot up 23% to €1,262,000, 37.7% of the total national tourist spend.

How then to account for the “it’s never been so quiet” stories one hears, something that is particularly confusing given that the biggest proportion of spending is still being made by British tourists, just over 20% of the total spent here by foreign visitors (followed by the Germans, then the French, then the Scandinavians – surprisingly not the Russians … yet). I fail to see any alternative but to accept that the upmarket push is working, and that the spending is exactly where the Canarian Government wants it to be, in golf, spas, niche markets, and the like. What analysis of the released figures makes clear, in any case, is that spending grew most among those staying in hotels, a rise of 16.9%, so they are indeed “getting out and spending” … just not in the “traditional” places.

I think it is perhaps time that these figures, which are now repeatedly being replicated, are accepted for what they are, and that the changing face of tourism in the Canaries is recognized as a move not just towards different visitors, but different requirements from the customary major British market. Those establishments which “have never been so quiet” might  have their core market, but this will not be enough to survive unless they adapt and evolve to meet the new reality.

Update 23 December: And still it continues. November’s figures have “shot up” by 17.9% compared with the same period last year, and have broken all records. November 2013 has the best figures for November that have ever been recorded for this time of year, with 1,073,759 tourists, says the Ministerio de Industria y Turismo. Not only that, but this year’s figures taken together show a new “historic maximum”, with 9,591,419 visitors to the end of November, up 4% from last year. Turismo is jubilant that this year will pass into the record books in both these respects, and said that when figures for the whole of 2013 are released at the end of this month, it expects that another record will be broken in the number of visitors in a complete year – the current record is 10,210,000 in 2011. Good news for us all, and long may it continue!

Update 27 September: The good news continues, and in a way that makes it clear that something positive is really happening. Last month, it seems, was the best August in tourism records, and not just that, but the month also closed with record tourist spending in the Canaries, some €1,002m, up 6.8% from August last year. So far in 2013, tourists have spent €7,241m, a rise of 7.6% on the corresponding period of 2012. The figures have come from the national Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo. According to the statistics, the UK and Germany led the main tourist drive in August, with the British actually increasing their spending, up 5.1% from last year, while the German spend dropped 11.9%.

Update 22 August: Spanish tourism figures show that there were 34m visitors to the country up to and including July this year, a rise of 3.9% from 2012, and a new record for the country. The figures come from analysis by Frontur (Movimientos Turísticos en Fronteras), of the Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo. In July alone there were 7.8m tourists, a rise itself of 2.9% on July 2012. The Scandinavian countries, together with the UK and Russia have led the surge, with German and French numbers holding up too. The good news for the Canaries is that  it is the third most successful autonomous region of Spain, with 5.8m tourists, 17.2% of the national total, coming behind only Catalonia and the Balearics.

Update 22 July: There’s further confirmation that Tenerife has fewer but wealthier visitors and the Government’s policy could be working. This time, too, it’s confirmation not from the Government but from the Tenerife Cabildo, whose statistics show that in the first half of 2013 there was a drop of 1% in tourists visiting the island, but a rise of 9.5% in terms of occupancy for 5* hotels. Cabildo vice President and tourism minister (and future President of Tenerife) Carlos Alonso said that the luxury hotels were increasingly capturing the market, and that analysis of the figures showed that weakened demand – particularly among Spanish, German and French holidaymakers – is in the lower end of the market. There are detailed reports HERE for those who’d like to see the number crunching.

Update 27 June: Well, could it be that they’re right after all? The Government has long said that part of its plan for “upmarket quality tourism” is several fold. To get rid of the cheap and shabby image created by the likes of the Tenerife Uncovered television programmes, to tend towards and generate new luxury and niche products, and to have fewer tourists – but “better quality and wealthier” ones who spent more.

The idea that lower tourist numbers could equate with higher tourist spending was met with pretty widespread scepticism, but the first five months of this year do seem to offer support because latest official figures show the Canaries leading Spain in the average tourist spend, with international tourists bringing €4,644,000 to these islands, 8% up on last year. What’s more, specific figures for the Canaries  show a rise on 2012, with an average daily spend of €111, a rise of 6.4% compared to 2012 – and British tourists are leading the spend.

So, the first five months saw fewer tourists but more income, and as I posted below, May itself was a superb month, the best May for ten years, but with the same general tendency to stay in better quality all-inclusive and 5* hotels. The message conveyed by what has been seen as a high-risk rebranding exercise might actually be getting out there: we are a quality destination for upmarket and wealthy tourists who have space to move … and to spend.

Original post 21 June: Turismo is understandably jubilant with figures that show 690,485 visitors came to these islands in May, a rise of 8.5 % compared to May 2012, and the best May in the last ten years – one has to go back to May 2003, when 690,971 holidaymakers arrived, to beat last month’s figures. The best May in the record books was in 2001, with 706,084. Equally happily, British tourists represented a large part of the increase, rising 10.5%. Long may this continue!


  1. I have read previous Turismo statements like this one and have privately questioned the ‘robustness’ of their data. I would not openly advocate a mistrust of these statistics but, if true, where are all of these tourists (visitors) ? Have they been hidden away somewhere, because it certainly does not look like 2003 to me when I walk the streets passing by the bars and restaurants.

  2. Author

    All inclusives and 5-stars in the main, it seems. Not the sort therefore to be found in local bars, really, and the better the hotel, the higher the chance that there’ll be a choice of quality restaurants on site. This is one reason why the policy is partly misguided, in my opinion … but Turismo’s own argument is that they are hell bent on getting away from the bar-type image, at least the type of bars many would be familiar with, with plastic furniture, sports TV, pop entertainment or karaoke, etc. Let’s not forget, too, that these data are not “Turismo’s figures”: they are produced independently. The relative apparent quietness in resorts shouldn’t disguise the fact that numbers were way up last month.

  3. So much for Nelson and his mate’s claims that the clampdown on illegal letting will destroy the tourist industry in the Canaries.

  4. Agreed Janet, all inclusives do have an impact on what we see in the streets. Also see that these numbers relate to ‘visitors’ (news in the sun) and that may be a clue. For the South of Tenerife, the number apparently was 297,443.

  5. Author

    yes, tourist figures are normally classified as visitors – they differentiate between “foreigners” and mainland Spanish, but both count as tourists (or visitors). Don’t forget too that the figure for the south that you quote is for Tenerife alone, whereas Turismo’s figures are for the Canaries as a whole.

  6. I can tell you the restaurant I am connected with had better figures this May than in April (which included Easter) and significantly better than May 2012.

  7. Author

    And if it’s the one I think it is, it proves the point … people looking for quality!

  8. I have seen somewhere (can’t recall where) on the net when they tried to separate out these visitor numbers into definitive ‘groups’ but as you say Janet, the reported number was a simple total for Tenerife.

    Interestingly, the reported number of beds (capacity) for Tenerife in 2012 was 164,800 ( 88.633 hotel + 76.167 self-catering) source: Assuming that these numbers are in themselves correct, and that there was 100% occupancy during May, it makes me wonder where the remaining 132,643 ‘visitors’ stayed?

    We have also seen a similar rise in restaurant success as mentioned by Doreen, but only one or two. As you say, quality definitely counts. Unfortunately we have also seen others close who had previously offered good quality food and service themselves, just a sign of the times I guess. I do know the owners we speak to wish for a return to pre-crisis levels in terms of tables filled.

    Whatever the true numbers are, I sincerely hope that a healthy tourism sector can be maintained in the coming years. Time, and world economies, will tell.

  9. As a further comment, I guess it would help make the numbers add up better if all of the reported bed capacity were ‘doubles’ and all visitors came in pairs 🙂

  10. Author

    Yes indeed! And, of course, the numbers will also include people coming to their own property, so holidaymakers properly speaking, but not “tourists” in the sense of commercial places.

  11. Let’s hope they plan to invest some of this money into decent, yet diverse tourism training programmes for young people on the islands to combat high youth unemployment and provide a proper career path. If they want to give priority to jobs for Canarians, they need to tackle the gap in vocational training and create a centre of excellence model which turns out high grade trainees who take pride in the tourism industry, rather than seeing it as a necessary evil.

  12. It’s a shame they didn’t open the doors to Las Americas, Puerto Colón and Fañabe to all these visitors. This May was the quietest I have seen in the 15 years I have worked in the South. Conversely Gran Canaria who has taken a different approach (and less Russians) is booming on the streets, and yes I have seen it with my own eyes!

  13. Gran Canaria only “booms” in May and that’s mainly thanks to the week long Pride Event. I was there in June and if it wasn’t for the gay tourists that place would be a ghost town!

  14. Canarian Weekly have a piece here regarding ‘all inclusive’ and the possibility that this could be a primary cause/reason for the lack of tourists seen in bars and restaurants:

    Makes for interesting reading and invites feedback from readers.

  15. Author

    Far too simplistic. As I’ve said before, the AI holidays appeal to the lower end of the market, which is where they’re marketed. The figures and spending show a clear drop in that end. This is why there’s a drop in people using local bars: it’s the lower end of the market that frequents them. The increase in the top end … who don’t go AI, and who spend a small fortune on restaurants, in jewellery shops, playing golf, going to spas, etc, etc. Not a helpful piece, in my opinion, and one that misses the point of what’s happening here. The two markets are separate, and the fall in the lower end/AI is not connected to the upper end/5* luxury push. The data is publicly available, by the way, so there for us all to access without going through Canarian Weekly.

  16. Would welcome a link to the figures for 1*, 2*, 5* etc, spending can be found.

    I’m not sure about “the fall in the lowerend/AI ….” But looking at the opening piece here: www. webtenerife. com/investigacion/situacion-turistica/informes-situacion-turistica – I get the impression that 5* in the South is loosing out to the North. Under the general situation for June 2013, for South Tenerife, it reads:

    The balance of the month is negative both for the hotel sector with 252 879 tourists staying, a reduction of 1.9% over the same month last year. The non-hotel also housed 3.9% fewer tourists in June than the previous year, a total of 132 879 tourists staying in these establishments.

    Except for 2* (+16.9%), the remaining hotel categories recorded declines in June, and in particular the 5* hotels, after 19 consecutive months of increases recorded a decline of 9.4 %. 3* reduced by 1.2%, 1* by 21.5%, and 4 * is practically stable with a slight decrease of -0.8%,

    Point taken (still) about AI and the impact this has on bars/restaurants, but is it really that simple? I’m not sure.

  17. Author

    That link is the one I gave in my latest update at the (current) top of the page. As I say there, it is the Tenerife Cabildo’s statistics that show a drop of 1% in tourists to Tenerife in the first half of 2013 but a rise of 9.5% in terms of occupancy for 5* hotels.

  18. Its the “lower end” as you refer to them Janet who are probably the bulk of tourists in Tenerife and that is the market that frequent the bars/restaurants in the south of Tenerife where they are struggling. And please… “upper end”…why on earth would people with money to burn go to Tenerife? Those types go to Dubai, Marbella and other more upmarket places. Tenerife is not and will never be one of them! Time people realised that. Those who do stay in the 5* hotels are hardly helping the bars & restaurants that do need the business are they as they probably never leave the complex! And why is that? Probably because if they set foot outside it they are reminded they are in 3* Tenerife!

  19. Author

    Hi Craig, yes, I agree, and I should stress that the terminology is the Government’s … I’m using it for clarity (and thought at the time I should put the words in quotes marks … ).
    Yes, too, to your analysis, which is the same as mine. The lower end (so called by the Government, the private apartment and 3* hotels tourist) use the bars, the upper end doesn’t … in general terms.
    Where the Government would differ with you is whether the upper end will come to Tenerife. It seems they will, and are now doing. And then of course there’s the Russan “invasion”!
    We have to accept, in my opinion, that Tenerife has changed continues to do so. The Government will not lift a finger to help the “lower end” of the market, and is glad, I think, generally, to see the end of all the “plastic bars” showing football and similar and the greasy-spoon type “restaurants”.

  20. If that is a true reflection of the ‘Governments’ attitude then tourism here in the South will inevitably continue to decline. I also agree with Craig, this island will never be able to compete with ‘true’ 5* locations, its simply not got the appeal and never will/can have. Yes, a few more richer folk may come here but nowhere near the significant numbers that would be required, even to maintain GDP, without also having (and welcoming) the traditional tourist.

    Sir Alan Sugar gave one of his failing ‘apprentices’ some sound advice in the last TV series; “stick with what you know and what your good at” …… Tenerife – take note.

    Thanks for confirming the link – it was the one I used and got the North/South 5* divide for June. However, I could not locate any specific financial analysis/data. Maybe it’s their somewhere.

  21. Author

    It’s with the cabildo. Yes, what I claim is a reflection of the government’s attitude is a true reflection. I disagree with you that they’re wrong: the jury is still out, I think.

  22. Then I guess its a question of what they think Tenerife, as a ‘destination’, truly is. If they think that it can successfully compete on a 5* basis with destinations such as Tahiti, Maldives, Saint Lucia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Fiji, Dubai, etc, etc, then I think that they are in for a big disappointment. However, if its just a case of building more of what they class as 5* accommodation, and filing them with tourists, then that’s a different matter.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think that these islands are beautiful and have a fantastic climate, and only 4 hours from the UK, but it is not a 5* ‘destination’ when compared to those already mention – and it never will be.

  23. In answer to Ray. I’m not saying the Govt is right or wrong, but the following is factual: My brother has stayed in many of the places you mention, he also likes Tenerife but not too happy with the main resorts. I recommended the Gran Melia. His comments “One of the best hotels he has ever stayed in and a lot cheaper than many of the other top worldwide resorts”

    The result Tenerife is now top of his list.

  24. Having returned from Singapore,Dubai & Australia not long ago, Tenerife has not got a chance in hell of ever becoming a 5* destination.

    Untill they knock down the half unfinished buildings & I mean the buildings that have been left to rot for the last 20+ years, not the buildings that will be left by the recession now.

    Stop people using any vacant land as a tip

    Control the unbeliveable corruption in all aspects of Government & business.

    People have mentioned a certain area were a few upmarket hotels have been built, now only to find out there is a sewage problem.

    They might want it to be a upmarket Island, and to do that they will need to spend a great deal of money on the infrastructure, Money they do not have neither does Spain. ( I wonder when the motoway will be finished?)

  25. All the positive reports I’ve read about people coming to Tenerife as a 5 star visitor seem to involve never leaving the hotel. In as much as it’s only 4 hours away and has a good climate, that could work in a limited kind of way I suppose. But also, they could really be anywhere, it’s just a posh hotel, a short flight away that you can go to out of season. It’s not really promoting the island at all. Because as commented above, as soon as you leave the oasis of your hotel you are confronted with the reality of unfinished buildings, rubbish tips etc. And this is not confined to Tenerife, it is just as bad in Fuerteventura and the whole island is a biosphere reserve! We still even have the cranes up, rusting away, above the unfinished buildings! To create a 5 star island you need to do a lot more than just build some nice hotels and get rid of the plastic chairs in bars and restaurants. What is more likely to happen is the creation of a 2-tier island with the 5 star people staying in their hotel and the 3-star people venturing out, but to a dwindling range of bars and restaurants. It’s fair enough to say the government are unconcerned with the closure of tacky bars, but what will replace them? Could be just a load of empty properties, with a bit of a ghost town feel and then even the 3 star tourists will start to feel uncomfortable and choose to go somewhere else.

  26. Hi Derek. We will all have to wait and see how the Government strategy develops and as Janet said: the jury is still out, I think. I simply have severe misgivings about their judgement on this one.

    Ive seen the Gran Melia from the outside and I must say it looks very impressive and, as previously mentioned, if this is what the Governments ‘plan’ is (to build these types of resorts and fill them with tourists) then I think that they will do well. I see Thompson market this place for their AI clients but must say that when you look on sites like trip adviser you definitely get a very mixed reaction to the place. What strikes me in particular is feedback regarding the ‘attitude’ of staff, poor customer service and quality of food. Strangely, as a resident here, I see the same issues time and again in Spanish bars and restaurants and it does let the place down. Maybe some training is needed (or maybe I need to find better places to go :-). Anyway, for those interested here is a link to the Gran Melia and the trip adviser comments, as I say – a mixed bag;

  27. Totally agree with the comments. So called “upper end” tourists aren’t going to set foot outside the “glamour” of their hotel complex so really they’ll do nothing to help the local businesses and they are the ones who need “real” tourists spending money in their bars, shops and restaurants. There are so many scruffy areas that are so off putting and until these are made into something more attractive then I don’t ever see how anyone could regard Tenerife as a 5 star destination. There will just be a small part of the island that is maybe 5 star but as has been mentioned if you don’t move off the complex then you may aswell be anywhere. Sorry for being so negative and as someone who owns property on the island I wish things were different but the truth of the matter is Tenerife is at best a “fun in the sun 3 star package holiday desitnation”….quite sad that anyone thinks it could be anything more!

  28. Hi Janet.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    I think you know that I am sometimes a little sceptical re statistics provided for this sector – or any other come to that ;-).

    One thing I notice from your December 2013 piece is that this year’s figures taken together show a new “historic maximum” with 9,591,419 visitors to the end of November. You also mentioned that statistics from November show that foreign tourist spending here grew 10.1% throughout 2013 compared with 2012, giving a total spend of €10.5m

    Do I read this correct – each visitor in Tenerife only spent 1.095 euro during 2013 ?

  29. Author

    hmmm … I admit that I reproduce these, and recognize that they chime with other stats, but don’t do the sums. I’ve just checked, therefore, and yes, you’re right. They’re actually quoting a per-visitor spend of €1,092. Of course, that is for individuals, so would be multiplied by two for a couple, four for a family of four …

  30. Hi Janet

    Many thanks for the reply. Just a quick check – I see that you used a comer (,). From your text I assume you used this as intended (the Spanish methodology) and that this does mean one point zero nine euro and not one thousand and ninety two euro.

  31. Author

    no, it means one thousand and ninety two euros per visitor per visit …
    The confusion comes from the way Spanish and English write amounts differently. The same amount in Spanish would be 1.092€ (a full stop rather than a comma, with the Euro sign at the end).
    edit: Ray, I’m sorry, I’ve compounded the confusion, I’ve just realized, by posting that total tourist spend in the Canaries from Jan to Nov 2013 as 10.5 million euros … it should be billion … (I’ve edited now … I’ve always said I’m no economist … 😀 ).

  32. Thanks for the clarification Janet. Yes – I see my post was wrong re Spanish use of comer in mathematics. I knew what I meant but didn’t type it properly …. I’ve always said I’m no typist …. ;-).

    Could you let me have a link to the data your using please. Would like to read more for myself.

  33. Author

    The actual stats are available to the public, but I always find them incomprehensible … so I usually wait for them to be mashed by the press. THIS is a decent report, from Diario de Avisos.

  34. I heard a few knocks at Tenerife trying to change it International image. It’s going in the right direction.

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