Tourist warning as two popular Spanish destinations on 'brink of collapse'

Bathers enjoying the beach in Benidorm
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Holidaymakers are being warned that two popular Spanish destinations could be on the verge of collapse ahead of the summer season. Valencia Manises and Alicante-Elche, both airports serving popular holiday hotspots, have reported a significant surge in passenger numbers.

Officials are now concerned they may struggle to handle the increasing influx.

In April, both airports experienced their busiest month on record. Spain's overall visitor numbers were 14 per cent higher than the same month last year.

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Valencia airport welcomed 945,513 passengers in April, marking a 9.5 percent increase from the same period last year, data from Aena, the airport management company, revealed. So far this year, the popular Spanish destination has already seen 3.07 million passengers pass through its doors.

If these figures continue into the summer season, it is feared that the airport will exceed its 10.5 million capacity and become unsustainable. Alicante-Elche, which serves the popular resorts of Alicante and Benidorm, is facing a similar situation, reports Bristol Live.

It registered its fourth record-breaking month of the year in April, with 1,590,828 passengers.

Recent local reports suggest long queues for taxis at arrivals at Alicante-Elche airport, with passengers reportedly waiting for up to hours. Two weeks ago, there were said to be 200 people waiting for a taxi, prompting the Ministry of Transport to schedule a meeting to find a solution.

Tourism in Spain has seen a significant rebound post-pandemic, with hotspots like Valencia, Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, and the islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Tenerife, and Lanzarote experiencing a boom in visitor numbers. This surge, however, has sparked protests due to overcrowding, particularly on the islands.

Industry experts are sounding the alarm over the need for an urgent expansion of Valencia Manises Airport to prevent a potential collapse. Aena, which operates the airport, is looking to kick off an expansion project at the end of this year or in early 2025, although it's not expected to be completed until 2027.

"Valencia airport must be expanded because it is on the verge of collapse," declared Nuria Montes, the Valencian Tourism Councillor, during a recent interview. She is confident that with the proposed upgrade, the airport could accommodate up to 15 million passengers annually by 2030.

A report from the Council of Chambers highlighted the necessity for improvements, suggesting that "would allow us to exceed 21 million passengers in an optimistic scenario" by the decade's end. The report also cautioned that without changes, the region could face losses exceeding £794million and miss out on creating 17,500 new jobs each year.

Meanwhile, Carlos Mazon, president of the Generalitat Valenciana, and Carlos Bano, president of the Alicante Chamber of Commerce, have issued a stark warning regarding Alicante-Elche Airport. They claim it is also teetering on the edge of a crisis and that failure to act could lead to a standstill across the entire province.

A recent report has highlighted that traffic projections for 2026 have already been exceeded in 2023, pushing the airport to its maximum capacity. Predictions suggest this trend will persist, with passenger numbers reaching two million annually, and the current infrastructure struggling to meet the growing demand.

Bano has issued a stark warning that without immediate action, the province could face an economic disaster, losing over £681million each year. He also highlighted the potential threat to employment, with up to 14,800 jobs at risk if construction of a second runway does not begin between 2024 and 2030.

Given the importance of tourism to Alicante's economy, the airport issues could also result in severe financial consequences for businesses and families across the region. As a result, Aena's president, Maurici Lucena announced plans to start expanding Alicante-Elche airport by the end of this year, during a meeting with the Ministers of Infrastructure.

However, Lucena stated that the renovations would primarily focus on enlarging the current terminal, rather than constructing a second runway, which is what many are advocating for. Following an analysis and technical study, "investment priorities should be the expansion of the current terminal to increase its capacity in the face of future demand due to the increase in operations and passengers," he said.

The Alicante Chamber of Commerce has expressed their worries, pointing out that these actions are not enough. They anticipate that by 2026, it will be mandatory for the airport to serve 20 million users, which requires an immediate construction of a second runway.

Nuria Montes openly backed this viewpoint, stating, "a second runway for the Alicante-Elche airport is their main demand".

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