Top European Destination for International Tourists

By: Gaizka Pujana

The success of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona was the catalyst for prompting a new generation of interest in Spain as The next big European destination.

Its not hard to see why: with its close proximity to the UK and other popular countries in Western Europe like France and Italy, with a good mix of new and improving infrastructure, a fair share of well preserved ancient relics from bygone eras, not to mention a reputation for more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Spain has something to offer every kind of tourist.

Since the games, and especially during the past five years, the country has continued to enjoy a rapid growth in tourist numbers, strengthening its public profile as a leading European destination for travellers from all over the world.

According to the report The Balance of Tourism in Spain, published by The Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce, Spain was host to almost 350 million visitors in 2006, an increase of 5% from the last year's statistics, and comfortably placing the country as the second top destination for international travellers within Europe, second only to France.

Of course, an increase in tourist numbers spells an increase in tourist dollars spent, offering Spanish businesses in the tourism industry a fantastic growth opportunity that looks set to continue in years to come.

As well as a general growth in tourist numbers, the industry has also noticed a shift in accommodation preferences. It seems that today's tourists are becoming more interested in renting a private apartment, away from other tourists and in a well connected residential area, as opposed to renting a room in a hotel or hostel.

Visitors are now, more than ever seeing apartment rental as a more affordable and flexible alternative to hotel accommodation, listing advantages such as added privacy, independance, freedom to prepare their own meals, and come and go at whatever hour of the day or night they please.

Affordability is also a huge factor. An apartment in Barcelona shared amongst a family or group of four people, for example, can cut the nightly cost of accomodation in half, compared to local hotel prices. This has brought excellent stability to the apartment rental business, and in turn, the opportunity for aggressive expansion.

Gaizka Pujana, owner of a sucessful holiday apartment rental business in Spain started out small in Barcelona with just one apartment in 2003. Since then, he has aquired a portfolio of fifteen apartments in Barcelona and has recently expanded into Madrid, Seville and the Costa Del Sol. Pujana attributes his success to steady and growing business.

He says Spain is a beautiful country. The people are friendly, the culture is rich and the sun is shining. Its not hard to see why this country is heading towards the number one tourist destination in Europe.

Along with small business success, further opportunities and challenges arise for local and regional authorities, who bear the responsibility of expanding and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to receive so many visitors.

But the numbers say it all, and visitors keep coming back year after year, to enjoy a taste of the Spanish sun and lifestyle.

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