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‘Low-cost’ flights have attracted more tourists to Spain, but who spend less

Spanish airports received 64.4 million foreign tourists in 2013. More than half used low-cost airlines, a figure 4.6% higher than the year before. According to scientists from the Complutense University of Madrid, this trend has been increasing since 2004, attracting more visitors but not generating greater economic profit.

Pasajeros suben a un avión de una compañía Low Cost. /JoshuaDavisPhotography

A study led by the researchers at the Complutense University in Madrid (UCM) reveals that the appearance of low-cost airlines gave rise to the arrival of more tourists in Spain during the period between 2004 and 2010. However, this did not translate into a positive effect on overall tourist spending.

One of the possible explanations for this null balance is that tourist profiles have changed, “they are here for less time and their air travel is cheaper, but above all, they spend less per day of their trip,” Rafael Myro, lead author of the study and professor at UCM, points out to SINC.

Due to these results, the experts advise that caution should be taken regarding economic policies that benefit low-cost airlines.

“As a general rule, encouraging this business model through subsidies does not lead to an increase in income per tourist, not even in the long-term, because it increases the number of tourists but decreases their average spending,” says Myro.

The economic strategies used to attract these airlines consist of promoting the use of airports with less air traffic and offering lower airport taxes and quality services making them more competitive.

According to the study, for example, in Catalonia, the Irish company Ryanair mainly operates in secondary airports like Gerona and Reus, facilities that were previously used by charter flights in summer. The reasons for working with smaller-scale airports are the low airport taxes and the “copious subsidies given by regional governments,” states Myro.

He continues that “the model of this company in working out of airports such as by Gerona is to exercise a monopoly which can be used to put pressure on regional governments. But in Spain, Ryanair has also extended itself to large airports, in Madrid and Barcelona, something that taxes, not so different between large and small airports, have facilitated”.

In Spain

In Spain, the percentage of tourists that arrive by plane on a low-cost flight is very high. “In 2010 it was 64% for the six autonomous regions that receive the most tourists and must have increased somewhat since then,” says the expert.

The rise of low-cost airlines (above all in Catalonia and Madrid), is observed in early 2004, the same year that the Irish airline started operating in Spain.

What is striking up until 2010 is the increase in tourism to Madrid, where the activity of low-cost airlines is not rated as among the highest but has grown more rapidly than in other autonomous regions.

In Catalonia on the other hand, the rise in French, Italian and British tourists travelling on Ryanair explains the increased influence of said company in the movement of tourists travelling low-cost.

The start of low-cost travel

It was during the seventies when the US company Southwest Airlines started this new business model based on lower prices which has currently taken hold across the world. This revolution in air travel has come as a threat to many traditional companies which have either disappeared or adapted by creating their own subsidiaries with more affordable prices.

This paradigm shift came to Europe via Ryanair, Easyjet and Air Berlin. Ryanair is the low-cost airline par excellence, with the most aggressive strategy.

Reference:

Rafael Myro Sánchez, Belén Rey Légidos y Pablo I. Hernández. Efecto de las compañías aéreas de bajo coste sobre el turismo internacional en España (1). Estudios Turísticos n. º 198 (4º T 2013)

Source: SINC
Copyright: Creative Commons

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