Spain’s tourism industry has experienced exceptional growth since the first visitors arrived at San Sebastian in the early 1900’s (Barke et al. 1996). In the 1960’s, following their European counterparts, Spain launched a major promotional campaign attracting international visitors. This initiated the tourism boom; a period of intense structural and economic growth during which tourist arrivals grew by 16.5 million between 1973 and 1987 (Solsten and Menditz, 1988) and created an industry that today accounts for ‘11% of Spain’s GDP’ (OECD Publishing, 2008:198). This analysis will discuss the contrasting effects that tourism has had on regional Spain and consider how tourism as a diverse product can continue to be an important source of income.
The combination of sun, beaches and low prices offered along the Mediterranean coast and Balearic Islands, is what initially attracted tourists to Spain. Rapid economic growth, far beyond that of more northern ‘communidades’, and ‘uncoordinated and unplanned’ (Burton, 1997:230) construction of ‘ciudades de hormigón’, such as Benidorm and Benalmadena, produced low quality structures, damaged the local environment and exploited natural resources. The spread of population across the regions also experienced ‘a shift towards the Costas and Balearic Islands’ (Burton, 1997:231) where employment opportunities were seasonal but vast. Casado-Daiz (2004) suggests that the construction industry became heavily reliant upon tourism as it provided important employment opportunities. This has, more recently, proved detrimental to the Spanish economy and could have indirectly contributed to its collapse (Tremlett, 2009).
These regions of Sp...
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...affected. Economically, the tourism boom has continuously provided much a needed income but has also been responsible for the destruction of the natural environment and essential resources such as water. Despite this, mass ‘tourism remains as one of the pillars of the Spanish economy’ (Batolomé et al. 2009:2742). Moving forward, the ‘plan turismo 2020’ aims to sustainably improve the quality of infrastructure, tackle geographical and seasonal distribution and ensure that ‘different parts of the country supply different tourism products’ (Bote-Gomez and Sinclar, 1996:65). It is therefore suggested that all regions of Spain can only benefit from this diversification of the tourism product. Nevertheless, with 59.2 million tourists per year (IET, 2008) it is important that any future growth needs to be appropriately and sustainably managed to the benefit of all regions.
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