Spain’s tourism industry witnesses surge in international air arrivals

Interior of Spain Madrid Airport.
Dmitry Dzhus from London, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
6 Min Read

Spain continues to attract a growing number of international tourists, with May 2023 recording an impressive surge in the arrival of air passengers.

According to data released by Turespaña, Spain received over 8.8 million international air passengers in May 2023, marking a significant increase of 13.9% compared to the same month in the previous year.

This positive trend has been consistent throughout the year, as the country welcomed a total of 34 million passengers in the first five months, reflecting a remarkable growth of 28.8% in comparison to the same period in 2022.

The Minister for Industry, Trade, and Tourism, Héctor Gómez, expressed his satisfaction with these figures, stating that they confirm the outstanding performance of Spain’s tourism sector in the first half of the year.

Gómez emphasized not only the increase in the number of tourists but also the overall improvement in the quality of services and offerings that Spain provides to travellers.

He further predicted that the high season would witness a revival, reaching or even surpassing the pre-pandemic levels in terms of the number of tourists, overnight stays, and overall spending at the various destinations across Spain.

Spain – May passenger surge

In May, Spain experienced a surge in passengers arriving from various countries worldwide.

Approximately 55.7% of the total passengers originated from European Union (EU) countries, marking a significant increase of 12.6% compared to the previous year. The remaining 44.3% came from the rest of the world, with a notable growth of 15.5%.



Analyzing the passenger growth by country, Poland exhibited the highest increase with 36.4% more passengers in May 2023 compared to May 2022. Portugal and Italy followed closely with growth rates of 24.1% and 22.6% respectively.

United Kingdom

Leading the pack in terms of volume, the United Kingdom stood out as the top issuer of passengers in May, with a total of 2,167,830 arrivals. This marked a significant YoY increase of 9.5%. The UK’s share of total arrivals amounted to 24.6%.

British tourists flocked to various regions, with the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands being the preferred destinations, attracting 25.2% and 21.2% of these passengers, respectively.

Notably, 80.4% of British passengers opted for low-cost carriers (LCCs), with the UK ranking as the leader in arrivals on such airlines, accounting for 32.5% of the total market share.

The cumulative number of travellers from the UK in the first five months of 2023 amounted to 7,439,633, representing a substantial growth of 27.2% compared to the same period in 2022.


Germany retained its position as the second-largest country of origin for international passengers. German arrivals constituted 14.8% of the total passenger count in May, experiencing a YoY increase of 7.5%.

The Balearic Islands were particularly favoured by German travelers, accounting for 45.2% of the arrivals. Approximately 45.2% of German passengers opted for traditional airlines, with Germany being the leading market for arrivals on such carriers, representing 17.1% of the total share.


Italy contributed 9% of the passenger flow in May, ranking as the third-largest country of origin. Italian arrivals exhibited a remarkable YoY growth rate of 22.6%, benefiting regions such as Catalonia (29.9%) and Madrid (25.8%).

LCC passengers dominated the Italian market, constituting 79% of the total, surpassing travelers on traditional airlines.


France accounted for 7.9% of the total passengers in May, showcasing a growth rate of 9.8%. Madrid and Catalonia were the primary beneficiaries of the French tourist influx.

Valencia is fastest growing region

Among the various Spanish regions, Madrid emerged as the community with the highest number of arrivals in May, representing 21.2% of the total share. The Balearic Islands (20.6%) and Catalonia (20.2%) closely followed.

Valencia recorded the highest year-on-year growth rate among the top six communities, with a remarkable increase of 19%. Madrid (16.7%) and Catalonia (15.8%) also experienced significant growth.

The combined growth rate of the top six communities, which accounted for 96.8% of the total arrivals, reached 13.5%.

Spanish Airports

Regarding airports, Valencia Airport recorded the highest YoY growth rate in May, with a remarkable increase of 23% compared to May 2022.

Barcelona Airport followed closely with a growth rate of 18.4%, and Alicante Airport experienced a substantial YoY growth of 17.2%.

In terms of total passenger volume, Barajas Airport welcomed 1,872,143 international passengers in May, while Barcelona Airport received 1,640,439 arrivals.

Palma de Mallorca Airport secured the third spot, hosting 1,376,149 international passengers during the same month.


Spain’s tourism industry has shown remarkable growth in the first half of 2023, with an increasing number of international air passengers choosing Spain as their destination.

The country’s efforts to enhance the quality of services and offerings have yielded positive results, attracting tourists from various regions, particularly the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands.

The upward trend in arrivals has positively impacted multiple Spanish regions, with Madrid, the Balearic Islands, and Catalonia being the preferred choices for tourists. With the high season approaching, Spain anticipates surpassing pre-pandemic figures, further solidifying its position as a top tourist destination.

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