Spain travel is trending

BANGKOK, 24 June 2024: Visits to Spain during 2023 surpassed the pre-Covid 2019 benchmark by 1.9%, as tourist arrivals reached 85,056,228, Spain Tourism reported during a recent travel agents’ product update hosted in Bangkok.

In the Thai outbound travel market, visits to Spain reached 47,000 in 2023 and are still climbing, mostly due to itineraries sold by travel agents despite rising airfares. There is also a lack of direct flights between Bangkok and Spain’s two leading gateway cities — Madrid and Barcelona. 

Spain Tourism board director Marta Fernandez Martin. Photo credit:

Iberojet, a low-cost airline headquartered in Madrid, introduced a direct Madrid-Bangkok weekly flight (every Thursday) in late May. However, that caters exclusively to Spanish tourists heading for a holiday in Thailand. The airline says it will continue the weekly direct flight during the winter timetable from November 2024 to March 2025. It will be interesting to see if the airline can pick up local bookings in the Thai outbound travel market.

The recent Spain Tourism Product Update, attended by around 80 travel agents based in Bangkok, was hosted by Spain Tourism board director Marta Fernandez Martin, who leads the Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand marketing team. Turkish Airlines joined the event as the supporting airline. It offers direct flights twice daily from Bangkok to its hub city, Istanbul. Travellers from Thailand can then connect with three daily flights from Istanbul to Barcelona and Madrid.

Martin told TTR Weekly that her marketing team is lobbying Thai Airways International to consider introducing direct flights to Madrid or Barcelona.

“We need direct flights from Bangkok to Spain, either Barcelona or Madrid, to boost summer season family travel… It would make a big difference and encourage more independent travellers who stay around two weeks in Spain and explore beyond the two gateway cities. Spain is trending in 2024… Looking forward, we can expect more Thai families to visit Spain during the annual summer school holidays 2025 (April to May school and university holidays).

Thai Airways International dropped its Bangkok-Madrid direct flights in January 2015 after flying the route since the late 1988. If the airline did return to Spain, it would most likely opt for three weekly flights to Barcelona initially on a seasonal basis, starting in April and continuing through the summer timetable to the end of October. 

Martin concedes airfares on routes to Spain have been higher since the Covid-19 pandemic due to rising fuel costs. “It’s the main expense for long-haul travel…We are just hoping they will come down or level off.”

Since there is only one weekly direct flight between Bangkok and Spain, travellers will need to connect through another city in the Middle East or Europe, which will add significant travel time (potentially over 15 hours).

She also recognises that some of Spain’s most popular destinations, notably Barcelona, are introducing a city tourism tax, which increases the cost of travel for families. However, this tax is not applicable to all cities and regions in Spain.

Sometimes called an eco-tax or city tax, the tax is in place in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia. Rates and regulations vary by location, but visitors pay the nightly fee when checking out of their hotel. Barcelona increased the tax to EUR3.45 per person per night in April 2024.

“The tourist tax is not a national tax. It is only paid in cities that approve it, such as Barcelona, where it is used to balance the carbon footprint and improve the environment. We promote 17 regions in Spain in Southeast Asian markets, many of which have not introduced a tourism tax.”

However, more Spanish cities and regions will likely implement a tourist tax because it helps generate revenue for maintaining tourist infrastructure, promoting sustainable tourism practices and supporting local initiatives.

The biggest expenditure for travellers visiting Spain remains the airfare, which has risen considerably since the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

But there are still some roundtrip fares below USD1000 for summer travel to Spain from Bangkok to Barcelona with a plane change in either Europe or the Middle East. See the best fare deals for July travel on Google Flights. 

First-time visitor to Spain: Where to go?

Spain is a country rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some of the top destinations for first-time visitors:

Barcelona: This vibrant city is home to some of Gaudí’s most famous works, including the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. You can also explore the Gothic Quarter, stroll down Las Ramblas, and relax on the beach.

Madrid: The capital of Spain is a great place to experience Spanish culture. Visit the Royal Palace, the Prado Museum, and the Reina Sofía Museum. Take a walk through the Buen Retiro Park, and enjoy the tapas scene in La Latina neighbourhood.

Granada: This Andalusian city is famous for the Alhambra, a stunning Moorish palace complex. You can also explore the Albaicín neighbourhood, the Sacromonte caves, and the flamenco scene.

Seville: The capital of Andalusia is known for its flamenco shows, tapas bars, and beautiful architecture. Visit the Seville Cathedral, the Alcázar Palace, and the Plaza de España.

San Sebastián: This Basque city is famous for its beautiful beaches, delicious food, and relaxed atmosphere. You can also explore the Parte Vieja (Old Town), hike up Monte Igueldo for stunning views, and visit the San Telmo Museum.

Top three Spanish regions for hotel bookings

Based on the latest information from Spain Tourism, the three Spanish regions that account for 50% of all hotel bookings so far in 2024 are Andalusia (+22.9%), Catalonia (+19.8%), and the Balearics (+25.8%).


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