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Tourism / Transport


Spain's capitalist mixed economy is the 14th largest worldwide and the 5th largest in the European Union, as well as the Eurozone's 4th largest.

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, lower than many other European countries, and significantly below Spain's early 1990s unemployment rate of at over 20%. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include a large informal economy, and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.

By the mid-1990s the economy had recommenced the growth that had been disrupted by the global recession of the early 1990s. The strong economic growth helped the government to reduce the government debt as a percentage of GDP and Spain's high unemployment rate began to steadily decline. With the government budget in balance and inflation under control Spain was admitted into the Eurozone in 1999.

Since the 1990s some Spanish companies have gained multinational status, often expanding their activities in culturally close Latin America. Spain is the second biggest foreign investor there, after the United States. Spanish companies have also expanded into Asia, especially China and India. This early global expansion is a competitive advantage over its competitors and European neighbours. The reason for this early expansion is the booming interest towards Spanish language and culture in Asia and Africa and a corporate culture that learned to take risks in unstable markets.

Spanish companies invested in fields like renewable energy commercialisation (Iberdrola was the world's largest renewable energy operator), technology companies like Telefónica, Abengoa, Mondragon Corporation, Movistar, Hisdesat, Indra, train manufacturers like CAF, Talgo, global corporations such as the textile company Inditex, petroleum companies like Repsol and infrastructure, with six of the ten biggest international construction firms specialising in transport being Spanish, like Ferrovial, Acciona, ACS, OHL and FCC.

In 2005 the Economist Intelligence Unit's quality of life survey placed Spain among the top 10 in the world. In 2013 the same survey (now called the "Where-to-be-born index"), ranked Spain 28th in the world.

In 2010, the Basque city of Bilbao was awarded with the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, and its mayor at the time, Iñaki Azkuna, was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2012. The Basque capital city of Vitoria-Gasteiz received the European Green Capital Award in 2012.


Crop areas were farmed in two highly diverse manners. Areas relying on non-irrigated cultivation (secano), which made up 85% of the entire crop area, depended solely on rainfall as a source of water. They included the humid regions of the north and the northwest, as well as vast arid zones that had not been irrigated. The much more productive regions devoted to irrigated cultivation (regadío) accounted for 3 million hectares in 1986, and the government hoped that this area would eventually double, as it already had doubled since 1950. Particularly noteworthy was the development in Almería—one of the most arid and desolate provinces of Spain—of winter crops of various fruits and vegetables for export to Europe.

Though only about 17% of Spain's cultivated land was irrigated, it was estimated to be the source of between 40–45% of the gross value of crop production and of 50% of the value of agricultural exports. More than half of the irrigated area was planted in corn, fruit trees, and vegetables. Other agricultural products that benefited from irrigation included grapes, cotton, sugar beets, potatoes, legumes, olive trees, mangos, strawberries, tomatoes, and fodder grasses. Depending on the nature of the crop, it was possible to harvest two successive crops in the same year on about 10% of the country's irrigated land.

Citrus fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, olive oil, and wine—Spain's traditional agricultural products—continued to be important in the 1980s. In 1983 they represented 12%, 12%, 8%, 6%, and 4%, respectively, of the country's agricultural production. Because of the changed diet of an increasingly affluent population, there was a notable increase in the consumption of livestock, poultry, and dairy products. Meat production for domestic consumption became the single most important agricultural activity, accounting for 30% of all farm-related production in 1983. Increased attention to livestock was the reason that Spain became a net importer of grains. Ideal growing conditions, combined with proximity to important north European markets, made citrus fruits Spain's leading export. Fresh vegetables and fruits produced through intensive irrigation farming also became important export commodities, as did sunflower seed oil that was produced to compete with the more expensive olive oils in oversupply throughout the Mediterranean countries of the European Community.


The climate of Spain, its geographic location, popular coastlines, diverse landscapes, historical legacy, vibrant culture and excellent infrastructure, has made Spain's international tourist industry among the largest in the world. In the last five decades, international tourism in Spain has grown to become the second largest in the world in terms of spending, worth approximately 40 billion Euros or about 5% of GDP in 2006.


Spain is one of the world's leading countries in the development and production of renewable energy. In 2010 Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the United States with a massive power station plant called La Florida, near Alvarado, Badajoz. Spain is also Europe's main producer of wind energy. In 2010 its wind turbines generated 42,976 GWh, which accounted for 16.4% of all electrical energy produced in Spain. On 9 November 2010, wind energy reached an instantaneous historic peak covering 53% of mainland electricity demand and generating an amount of energy that is equivalent to that of 14 nuclear reactors. Other renewable energies used in Spain are hydroelectric, biomass and marine (2 power plants under construction).

Non-renewable energy sources used in Spain are nuclear (8 operative reactors), gas, coal, and oil. Fossil fuels together generated 58% of Spain's electricity in 2009, just below the OECD mean of 61%. Nuclear power generated another 19%, and wind and hydro about 12% each.


The Spanish road system is mainly centralised, with six highways connecting Madrid to the Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, West Andalusia, Extremadura and Galicia. Additionally, there are highways along the Atlantic (Ferrol to Vigo), Cantabrian (Oviedo to San Sebastián) and Mediterranean (Girona to Cádiz) coasts. Spain aims to put one million electric cars on the road by 2014 as part of the government's plan to save energy and boost energy efficiency. The former Minister of Industry Miguel Sebastián said that "the electric vehicle is the future and the engine of an industrial revolution."

Spain has the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe, and the second-most extensive in the world after China. As of October 2010, Spain has a total of 3,500 km (2,174.80 mi) of high-speed tracks linking Málaga, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Valladolid, with the trains reaching speeds up to 300 km/h (190 mph). On average, the Spanish high-speed train is the fastest one in the world, followed by the Japanese bullet train and the French TGV. Regarding punctuality, it is second in the world (98.54% on-time arrival) after the Japanese Shinkansen (99%). Should the aims of the ambitious AVE programme (Spanish high speed trains) be met, by 2020 Spain will have 7,000 km (4,300 mi) of high-speed trains linking almost all provincial cities to Madrid in less than three hours and Barcelona within four hours.

There are 47 public airports in Spain. The busiest one is the airport of Madrid (Barajas), with 50 million passengers in 2011, being the world's 15th busiest airport, as well as the European Union's fourth busiest. The airport of Barcelona (El Prat) is also important, with 35 million passengers in 2011, being the world's 31st-busiest airport. Other main airports are located in Majorca (23 million passengers), Málaga (13 million passengers), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) (11 million passengers), Alicante (10 million passengers) and smaller, with the number of passengers between 4 and 10 million, for example Tenerife (two airports), Valencia, Seville, Bilbao, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura. Also, more than 30 airports with the number of passengers below 4 million.

Science and technology

In the 19th and 20th centuries science in Spain was held back by severe political instability and consequent economic underdevelopment. Despite the conditions, some important scientists and engineers emerged. The most notable were Miguel Servet, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Narcís Monturiol, Celedonio Calatayud, Juan de la Cierva, Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, Margarita Salas and Severo Ochoa.

Water supply and sanitation

Water supply and sanitation in Spain is characterised by universal access and generally good service quality, while tariffs are among the lowest in the EU. Almost half of the population is served by private or mixed private-public water companies, which operate under concession contracts with municipalities. The largest of the private water companies, with a market share of about 50% of the private concessions, is Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar). However, the large cities are all served by public companies except Barcelona and Valencia. The largest public company is Canal de Isabel II, which serves the metropolitan area of Madrid.

Droughts affect water supply in Southern Spain, which increasingly is turning towards seawater desalination to meet its water needs.