Skift Take

While TUI's CEO is right to point out the macro benefits of tourism in Spain, the company ignores the myriad of local issues in places such as Barcelona and Majorca that are turning locals against mass tourism. It is a self-interested issue to address for virtually the entire travel industry.

The backlash against tourism is growing but the world’s largest mass tourism company isn’t panicking just yet.

While TUI Group’s Fritz Joussen acknowledges that the continued growth of tourism in Spain is presenting “a little bit of a challenge,” he believes most people are happy because of the overall benefits to the economy.

Spain is arguably the epicenter of the overtourism debate with campaigners in Barcelona and the Balearic Island of Majorca stepping up their attacks on tourism in recent months.

For more view the Skift Lens Documentary: Barcelona and the Trials of 21st Century Overtourism

Joussen, who was speaking Thursday after the company reported its third quarter results, said that he was aware of the issue.

“Spain is pretty full. Last year we had an all-time high in Spain and this time we will be on similar levels and it’s true because the tourism business is growing so strongly,” he said.

“Most people in Spain are very, very happy with the tourists because you see the Spanish economy [is] very strong, you see unemployment is going down particularly in youth, you see GDP is growing, the state deficit is a little bit [healthier].”

The problem in Spain is being exacerbated by the country’s continued tourism growth. Terrorism in North Africa and the Middle East has persuaded Europeans to head to perceived safe destinations. Figures recently released by the UNWTO, show that the number of international arrivals to Spain increased by 10.3 percent in 2016, cementing its place as the world’s third favorite destination.

And Spain is not alone in having to face up to the challenge: Amsterdam, Reykjavik and even the Scottish Isle of Skye are all wrestling with the idea of too many tourists.

Return to Tunisia

Joussen said the company had yet to decide on when it would restart its program to Tunisia from the UK. Although TUI already offers vacations to the North African country from some of its markets it has not done so from the UK since the terrorist attack near the city of Sousse, which killed 38, tourists, mostly British.

“It depends heavily on the demand and we are looking. We are not on a mission so if people want to go to Tunisia and the [UK] Foreign Office thinks it’s safe we will consider it but decisions are not made yet,” Joussen said.

Third Quarter Results

TUI has built on its successful start to the year with a 12.6 percent rise in turnover to $5.6 billion (€4.8 billion). The company’s net profit for the three months until the end of June more than doubled from $88.9 million (€75.9 million) to $188.1 million (€160.6 million).

“This good performance reflects our successful transformation and focus on own hotel and cruise brands. We have significantly reduced the seasonal swing of our business,” said Joussen.


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Tags: barcelona, overtourism, tui group

Photo credit: People on a beach in Majorca. The island is undergoing a tourism backlash. Chris / Flickr

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