Answer to Map #35

Click here for a full-size version of this week’s map.

Back to this week’s map and hints.

Answer: This choropleth depicts the relative number of tourists in each autonomous community of Spain.

Our goal was to try to map the importance of tourism in each region of Spain. Sometimes, the data sets that are available are not exactly the same as the data sets you wanted to find. In this case, we would have liked to have data on the total number of tourists to each autonomous community of Spain. Instead, what we found in the Eurostat database was a table of the total number of nights that tourists spend in one year in each region of the European Union. We have divided these figures by the populations of each autonomous community in order to make up our own statistic: “number of annual tourist nights per capita.” This statistic doesn’t mean much on its own, but its a convenient way of mapping the relative importance of the tourism industry from one Spanish autonomous community to another.

For our game, we happily accepted any answer that referred to the relative prominence of the tourism industry in each region—but we were especially impressed by the two submitters who managed to divine exactly what statistic we had created. That’s impressive work!

The reason we wanted to create this per capita statistic was because it tells a different story than a map of the total number of nights that tourists spend in each region. For example, consider that tourists spent a total of 12,260,649 nights in Madrid in 2015 and only 114,718 nights in Ceuta. Does that mean that tourism is more important to the economy of Madrid? No. Ceuta is a tiny enclave with only about 0.3% of the population of Madrid. Our statistic reveals that Ceuta has nearly three times more tourist nights per capita than Madrid.

This statistic really highlights the importance of tourism to Spain’s two island groups, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. In 2015, the Canaries hosted tourists for an impressive 10,997,685 nights, while the Balearics hosted tourists for 5,909,218 nights. These island groups get fewer total tourists than big regions like Catalonia and Andalucia, but they have much, much smaller populations.

In fact, some people think that Spain’s island groups get too many tourists. In July 2015, the newly inaugurated president of the Canary Islands floated a plan to put a cap on the number of tourists that would be allowed to come each year. Such a plan could help preserve the islands’ natural beauty, but it also might limit their economic growth. These limits haven&rsqou;t been instituted yet, but they are a subject of intense debate. When your economy relies on tourism, can you have too many tourists?

As you may remember from Map #27, our choropleth of unemployment by region in the European Union, Spain’s unemployment rate is highest in the southern parts of the country. In Andalucia, home to many beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean as well as amazing cultural sites like Seville and Cordoba, the unemployment rate is 31.5%, highest in the entire E.U. With other aspects of the local economy struggling, tourism is absolutely critical to the fortunes of this region.

It is difficult to predict what the impact of politics will be on Spain’s tourism industry going forward. Many tourists who come to Spain are British people seeking sun and sand. At the moment, it’s cheap and simple to get a flight on a discount air carrier and go warm up on a Spanish beach. But as the United Kingdom negotiates its exit from the E.U., it remains to be seen how much more expensive or more complicated such a vacation might become.

Next map: Click here to try out our newest map question.