Record-breaking 12 million cruise passengers in Spain

Spain's cruise ship tourists reach all-time high

P&O cruise ship Britannia entering the port of Alicante. Credit: Photomarine/

In 2023, Spain’s ports witnessed a historical surge in cruise passenger arrivals, surpassing all previous records and providing a significant boost to the Spanish economy.

In 2023, over 12 million cruise passengers docked at Spanish ports, outstripping the pre-pandemic peak of 10.6 million in 2019.

The data, announced during the 2024 International Tourism Fair (Fitur), underscores Spain’s position as Europe’s second most popular cruise destination, just behind Italy.

Economic impact and job creation

The impact of this sector is ‘very important’ for the economy not only of port cities but of Spain as a whole, according to Puertos del Estado.

The sector’s growth is not just about numbers, it’s a story of substantial economic contribution and job creation.

In 2022, the cruise industry brought in an impressive €5.6 billion and supported over 42,000 jobs, as per a study by Tourism Economics/Oxford Economics for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Sustainable tourism at the forefront

Sustainability is a key theme at this year’s Fitur. Spanish ports are actively embracing sustainable practices, including the OPS program to supply docked ships with electrical power, reducing emissions and noise.

The introduction of alternative fuels like LNG, alongside digital and innovative advancements, demonstrates Spain’s commitment to eco-friendly tourism.

Innovations and attractions at Spanish ports

Several Spanish ports are showcasing their unique contributions to sustainable cruise tourism. The Port Authority of Cadiz will present its pioneering OPS project, positioning it as the first to offer electrical supply to cruise ships in dock by 2024.

AP Tarragona will unveil its new, sustainable cruise terminal, while the port of Motril spotlights the ‘Granada destination’.

The Port Authority of Malaga is set to host the Seatrade Med Malaga 2024 edition, and AP Vigo will exhibit its ‘Peiraos do Solpor’ project, transforming grey infrastructures into green spaces.

This record-breaking increase in cruise passengers not only highlights the resilience of the tourism sector post-pandemic but also showcases Spain’s innovative approach towards sustainable tourism development.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.