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Spain - Tourism Fuels Unstoppable Growth in the Mediterranean

A few hundred years ago some of the first European tourists to visit the Americas launched from Spain.  Today more than 60 million tourists a year set their sights on the Mediterranean country, the second-largest tourist destination in the world.

Tourism is now the country’s strongest industry and has helped to sustain rapid expansion of the Spanish economy over most of the last 20 years. Starting during the four years after Spain joined the European Union (EU) in 1986, the economy maintained a robust average annual growth of 5 percent until stopped by a European-wide recession in 1990. 

During much of this decade Spain has maintained modest growth, yet continues to grow faster than the EU-25 average, and is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. 

Despite the robust economy though, Spain’s unemployment has not always been such a pretty picture and has only during the last few years dipped below 10 percent.  In part a natural result of a tourism-based economy, it is also the long shadow of Spain’s former Socialist dictator, Fancisco Franco who died in 1975, leaving a then-crippled economy.  

To support Spain’s growth, and with the help of foreign investment, construction has continued to boom on the Spanish peninsula with as much as 16 percent of the GDP and 12 percent of the workforce occupied by the industry.   

In addition, according to MCR International, an MRINetwork Worldwide office in Madrid, both the biotech and engineering sectors have in recent years seen a boost by European companies looking for a conduit into Latin America. 

“Spain has one of the most dynamic economies in the EU,” says Luis Álvarez, director of MCR International. “For five hundred years we’ve been a center for trade in Europe. Now, even though the commodities are not as tangible, Spain is still seen as a gateway both into and out of Europe.” 

MCR International itself has been served well by the Spanish economy; for the last three years it has been the largest MRINetwork office in Europe and in 2007 was the largest in the world outside of the U.S.