March 25, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Spain counts the tourists on their mobile phones: many Dutch, but also many Belgians on the coast | for travel

The Spanish government is currently registering tourists via their mobile phones for a census. And here and there, not entirely unexpectedly, a “bus full of Dutch” occasionally stops in Spain, as it turns out. For example, the Dutch were the largest group of foreigners in the tourist province of Valencia in January. The Belgians just fell out of the top five here.

Spanish numbers are more detailed than that. Cartagema, a village of 250 inhabitants in the province of Malaga, was visited by only 41 foreigners in January, and Munda, also in that region, was visited by 331 people. Either way, the Dutch also made up the majority here.

In the coastal town of Calpe in the province of Alicante, where cyclists such as Remco Evenpoel can also be found regularly, the Belgians were convincingly first in January, and Benidorm once again seems to be heaven for the Brits.

Benidorm is full of Brits. © Environmental Protection Agency


The data is collected by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE). It not only allows the Spanish government to know where the tourists come from, but also where they’ve been and even how long they’ve been staying, via the municipality. To calculate the number of tourists, the data of the three largest mobile operators in Spain are used.

“experimental method”

The Spanish media is critically questioning whether it is about “spying” on tourists.

See the figures for the province of Valencia for an explanation.
See the figures for the province of Valencia for an explanation. © INE

INE doesn’t really address this criticism. She asserts that it is an experimental method and far from perfect. It appears to be a useful tool for gauging raw tourist numbers. This is not always true. For example, if a tourist has two mobile phones, they will be counted as two people in the data. The opposite can also happen, that is, a foreign tourist who travels without a mobile phone is not detected and therefore does not appear in the numbers.

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You can find all the numbers from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics here to look into.