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Spain has been one of the world’s main tourist destinations for a long time, and not just because of its historic monuments, but also because its cities reflect different ages in world history. It has received more than 50 million tourists a year since 2006, mainly due to the appearance of low-cost airlines.
Besides visiting beaches such as famous Playa Costa de Sol (Málaga), travelling to Spain also means experiencing its Alpine ski stations, such as well known Panticosa-Los Lagos (Aragon) and La Molina (Girona), or visiting cities with historic monuments, palaces and churches.
Spain is the seventh country brand among the Country Brand Ranking’s Top 10, which in tourist terms means that it is the world’s seventh tourist destination. This is so because of the change in brand from Sun and Beach Spain to Urban Spain, based on big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, where night life is considered its greatest value.
The main characteristics of the tourist flow in Spain are:
- The tourist origins show that 58% come from European countries such as England, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Italy. The rest come from countries in the Americas, most of which come from the United States.
- The most sought after tourist destinations in Spain in 2010 were Catalonia with 22% of the total, Canary Islands 16%, Balearic Islands also 16% and the rest goes to Madrid, Andalusia and others.
- Most tourists arrive in Spain via airports, because of the low priced flights offered by low-cost airlines that operate on European Union’s territory.
- Tourists prefer staying in hotels and a lower proportion prefers guest houses, because of the deals offered by two and three star hotels.
- Most tourists arrive in Spain on their own expenses with a tailored visit program, and a lower percentage arrives with tourist packages hired through travel agencies.
Spain is considered the first tourist destination for Europeans, and the demand for low priced flights has increased around 42% in the September 2006 – September 2010 period. On the latter date there were 2.6 million passengers.
Low-cost airlines flying between Spain and other European countries are diverse, and the most important ones are Ryanair (http://www.ryanair.com/), Easyjet (http://www.easyjet.com/), Vueling (http://www.vueling.com/). For instance, if you wanted a one way Amsterdam – Madrid air ticket for December 30, 2010, flexible dates, the results for each airline would be:
- In Ryanair, there is no flight on 30/12, but there is one on 31/12 for 59.99 euros, and the cheapest one would be on 03/01/2011 for 36.99 euros.
- In Easyjet, the ticket price on 30/12 would be 105.99 euros, and the cheapest one would be on January 5, 2011 for 47.99 euros.
- Vueling does not have nonstop flights between both cities.
But if you bought that same ticket from any of the traditional airlines, it would cost you three or four times as much: Air France 525.67 euros, Lufthansa 445.79 euros and Iberia 535.53 euros. The difference is that low priced tickets must be bought online in advance, with low demand schedules, like early mornings or nights.