SIZZLING: Benalmadena beach during summer

ANDALUCIA’S tourism sector is fearing a downturn after the number of foreign visitors decreased for the first time in 33 months in February. 

The number of visitors to the region fell by 0.3% compared to the same period as last year.

It may not seem like a significant loss, but it is less than its rival regions Catalunya and the Canary Islands, which saw foreign visitor numbers increase by 2.8% and 0.8% respectively.

What’s more worrying for tourism bosses is that the number of British tourists coming to Spain dropped by 5.9 % in February compared to the same month last year.

Brits are believed to represent 30% of the holidaymakers visiting Andalucia each year.

In the first two months of 2018, the number of Brits arriving in the region fell by 3.1%, while the number of French – the region’s third biggest market – fell by 2.2%.

Tourism lobbying firm Exceltur and hotel management chain Cehat have placed part of blame on the recovery of tourism in rival destinations like Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, and a less favorable exchange rate between the pound and the euro.

Sevilla Catedral is one of the most visited sites in Spain

It comes after the Minister of Tourism in Tunisia, Selma Elloumi, announced that his country’s tourism sector expects to rake in 25% more profits this year than in 2017.

He added that he expected a record number of tourists, which would reverse the damage inflicted on the sector by the terrorist attacks registered in several tourist spots in 2015.

Several large European tourism companies such as Thomas Cook or TUI have begun to return to the country after leaving it aside for three years after the attack on the beach of Susa, which killed 39 people, and the Bardo National Museum, which killed another 21.

The silver lining for Andalucia is that although there was a drop in international tourists in the first two months, their spending grew by 11.8% to €664 million, meaning the region is attracting wealthier tourists.