Spain looks beyond record visitor numbers to boost tourist spend

Fri Jan 29, 2016 4:48am EST
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By Sonya Dowsett

MAGALUF, Spain (Reuters) - Set back from the white sand beach which first attracted tourists to Magaluf in the 1960s, a smart new development is rising - part of the Mallorcan resort's plan to transform itself from an alchohol-fueled fleshpot awash with young Britons to a high-end holiday destination for families and couples.

Old buildings are being torn down and pedestrian streets laid in one project which forms part of a 187 million euro ($204 million) turnaround campaign.

Magaluf's vision shows how Spain's tourist industry is looking beyond record visitor numbers and aiming to boost spending per head in a sector that accounts for 11 percent of Spain's economic output and employs two million people.

That means improving the quality and offering a wider range of activities than just drinking and soaking up the sun.

"A tourism model based on sun and sand and competing on the lowest price is all very well, but it's not sustainable in the long term," said Ricard Santoma, dean of Barcelona-based Sant Ignasi School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

"The challenge is to attract tourists who want to spend a little more."

The success of the sector is vital for Spain to ensure its economy can grow again this year and further shrink a 20.9 percent unemployment rate at a time of political instability.

The country has yet to appoint a prime minister after inconclusive elections more than one month ago.   Continued...

A woman and her dog stroll at the beach in the holiday resort of Magaluf, on the Spain's island of Mallorca, January 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Enrique Calvo