With a record 18 million people visiting last year, Spain is by far the most popular foreign destination for UK holidaymakers. But as the country “fills up” with tourists – picking a package deal to the Costa del Sol or the Balearics over Tunisia, Egypt or Turkey – prices look set to increase.
Much of the rise in visitor numbers has been caused by ongoing security concerns over travel to north Africa and Turkey. Travel to Turkey suffered last year due to a failed military coup and from 2015 until July this year – when the Foreign Office updated its travel advice – British tourists were warned not to travel to Tunisia, following a terrorist attack on a beach in Sousse that killed 38 people.
In February, travel market analysts GfK reported a record number of British tourists had visited Spain in 2016, rising by 12% to 17.8 million people. At the time, early bookings for summer 2017 were already up 16%.
On Tuesday, Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser told the BBC that in Spain “we have not enough beds for all the demand”, adding that he expected the price of a Spanish holiday to rise by up to 10% next year, as a result of the destination’s surge in popularity, combined with the weak pound.
Other industry experts agree. John Lucas, e-commerce director at loveholidays.com, said demand for summer 2018 was already higher than this time last year, with a growing number of people taking advantage of early-booking deals.
“Spain was very busy this year, so a lot of tourists would have missed out on the best hotels, best rooms or their first-choice properties,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is a huge interest in summer 2018, and that’s one of the first influencers of price. If the demand comes early, the hoteliers will be happy to hold their line as we get closer to next summer.”