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Spain’s New Big Bubble Begins to Wobble

Spain’s New Big Bubble Begins to Wobble

Tourism is now bigger than construction was during the real estate bubble.

Since hitting rock bottom in 2013, Spain has been one of the biggest engines of economic growth in Europe, expanding at around 3% per year. But according to a report by the Bank of Spain, most of the factors behind this growth — such as cheaper global oil prices, the ECB’s expansionary monetary policy, and the subsequent decline in value of the Euro — are externally driven and transitory in nature.

This is particularly true for arguably the biggest driver of Spain’s economic recovery, its unprecedented tourism boom, which some local economists are finally beginning to call a bubble.

In large part the boom/bubble is a result of the recent surge in geopolitical risks affecting rival tourist destinations like Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and, in smaller measure, France, which helped boost the number of foreign visitors to Spain in 2016 to a historic record of 75.3 million people — an 11.8% increase on 2015.

Based on first-half figures for this year, the trend is set to continue, at least for a little while longer. Between January and June 2017 36.3 million foreign visitors came to Spain — an increase of 11.6% on the same period of 2016. But if recent developments are any indication, this year’s surge in visitors could well represent Spain’s tourist boom’s final swansong.

Rising “Tourism-phobia.” After years of growing public opposition to the unrestrained growth of the Barcelona’s tourist industry, the city has witnessed a rash of coordinated attacks against tourist targets led by Arran, the youth wing of the radical separatist CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) party. Arran’s highly publicized actions have spawned a flurry of copycat attacks in places like Palma de Mallorca, San Sebastian and most recently Tenerife.

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