Terror attacks wreak havoc European tourism sector as holidaymakers seek safety in Spain, Portugal

European holidaymakers are seeking safer locations following a spat of terror attacks experienced in parts of the continent.

A Bloomberg report shows that tourists are flooding to the Canary Islands hotels where reservations are up as much as 20 per cent this year as terror attacks and security worries elsewhere draw visitors to the safety of countries like Spain.

After multiple attacks in France and a failed coup in Turkey, both Spain and its Iberian neighbour Portugal are forecasting a record number of visitors this year as tourists seek sun in destinations perceived as safer.

For Portugal, it is also helping fuel a push to keep the destination on travellers’ year-round itineraries.

“Portugal always shows up as a safe destination,” the nation’s Economy Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral said in an interview.

The country is working to find different segments, like sporting and corporate events, to fill hotels in the winter.

“Next year, we are going to see less concentration in the peak season and a more even spread of tourists not only across the time frame of the year, but also across the country,” Cabral added.

Tourism is big business for both economies, generating about 10 per cent of gross domestic product in both Spain and Portugal.

In Spain, arrivals were up 7.4 per cent through May this year, while visitor spending jumped 7.8 percent. Overnight stays by non-residents in Portugal advanced 13 per cent in the same period. Regional Unrest Turkey and France have seen the opposite.

The nation’s travel agency association is forecasting a drop of up to 40 percent in 2016 income. France, the world’s most visited country, suffered an 8.7 per cent drop in foreign visitors in the fourth quarter of last year — when terrorists killed 130 people in and around Paris.

Turkey “is seen as [a] conflict area,” said Professor Josep Francesc Valls, a lecturer at ESADE Business School in Spain. As people increasingly shun it, they turn to Iberia because the visitor profile of many of those who go to Turkey is similar to that in Spain, according to Valls.

Portugal has in turn, bolstered security measures at airports and popular tourist destinations, following the events in France and Turkey, Cabral said.

It has also increased the number of doctors in the Algarve region in the summer. The government is providing credit lines for innovative hotel projects and to help existing hotel owners renovate their properties. It is also building a free wifi network in historic centers across the country as it simplifies legislation on short-term rentals in a bid to increase the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Portugal, said Cabral.

His government is also playing a role in helping Lisbon attract big conferences such as November’s “The Web Summit,” one of the world’s biggest gatherings of start-ups.

“When tourism is going quite well we have to work to guarantee that this is not a peak or a fashion but a trend,” said Cabral. “And we want to maintain that trend.”

The impact is not limited to just Spain and Portugal, according to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. In Costa Smeralda, an upscale stretch of seaside resorts in Sardinia, the company’s growth was 33 per cent in the first six months from the year earlier.

“There was a significant increase in bookings from both Italian and foreign travelers because indeed, they feel more secure in Italy now,” said Robert Koren, a company vice president, in a statement.

While Spain is no stranger to violence, its last major terrorist attack was 12 years ago, Bloomberg reports. The country enjoyed a bumper year for tourism last year, with a record 68 million visitors arriving to the nation as it became one of the main beneficiaries of the political unrest across the Mediterranean.

The Canary Islands refer to a volcanic archipelago off the coast of north-western Africa, and are among Spain’s farthest-flung territories.

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