Spain Sustainable Travel Guide


Spain is blessed with its location, having access to both the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Mediterranean. This special combination makes Spain one of the most diverse and varied countries in all of Europe. Beaches can be found across the country’s coastal cities, like Barcelona or Valencia. Meanwhile, the interior contains mountains and forested hills. Landlocked cities provide a glimpse back in time with historic castles, churches and Moorish architecture. Because of all this and so much more, Spain has become one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, receiving an average of 50 million international visitors each year.

But precisely because Spain’s tourism industry has grown to what it is today, some unsustainable tourism practices continue to exist. Such examples include the development of all-inclusive resorts, as well as a number of cruise-liners off of its coastal waters. Both all-inclusive resorts and cruises create similar problems within the tourism industry. The main symptom is something called ‘economic leakage’. This occurs when a country receives little to no money from the tourism industry. All-inclusive resorts and cruises create economic leakage because everything is paid up front, including your flight, hotel, food, entertainment and more. In the case of all-inclusive resorts, this leaves little incentive for travellers to spend money outside the resort, which would otherwise help local businesses and vendors. For cruises, most of your travel dollars are spent on board, and little time is given to travellers once they’re on land. Furthermore, in both cases, the majority of your money goes to a foreign company. Little money goes to the local economy, thus, economic leakage is accomplished.

Authentic Spanish culture is also so interesting that it’d be a shame to miss out on it while inside the gates of your resort or on a cruise. Locals are far and few between in these situations. Going outside your resort may mean you get to experience an authentic night out in Spain, full of traditional tapas, delicious bebidas and a fun and vibrant nightlife.

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You can’t talk about tourism in Spain without talking about the spectacle of bullfighting or the Running with the Bulls festival (which takes place annually in July in Pamplona). Although they attract many tourists every year and are promoted as culturally significant events, recent surveys show that 67% of Spaniards aren’t interested in visiting bullfights. Both events are justifiably criticized. With bullfights, what seems like a fair fight is anything but. The bulls are kept in dark cages for days prior to the fight. They are then fed drugs to further disorient them. Finally they’re eyes are blurred with Vaseline and legs impaired to decrease their balance. The bull is set free only to find itself in a ring with the matador, which slowly exhausts and tortures the bull, before finally killing it in front of thousands of spectators. Bullfighting is still widely accessible in Spain, but Catalonia had banned it in 2013. As for the Running with the Bulls festival, the bulls are once again abused for days prior to the event. After the event, they are killed in bullrings.

One of my favourite podcasts, Stuff You Should Know, did an episode on bullfighting, and it's worth listening to here:

Sustainable tourism is meant to respect and support local cultures, economies and the environment. Here at FairAway Travel, we don’t want to just inform you about the pitfalls of traditional tourism, we also want to offer alternatives that support our definition of sustainable tourism. As such, we recommend finding small, independently owned boutique hotels while travelling in Spain. The country offers a number of amazing eco-lodges in the heart of Spanish natural environments surrounded by mountains or by the sea. We are continuing to source and partner with local hotels that meet our sustainable tourism criteria. Please be sure to check back regularly for new partners offering sustainable holidays in Spain.