“Come here!” shouts the Russian mother to her toddler, as she descends from her black SUV along with a number of her compatriots in tow. We are not in the Spanish capital, nor Marbella or Ibiza where this could be the norm. Had this entourage mistaken the location for Marbella and got off at the wrong turn? After all, we are in the birthplace of Spain’s beloved bullfighting star Paquirri, the land of the toreros so well depicted by Hemingway, lost deep in the south of Andalusia. The only accent one is used to hearing here is local Andalusian, sprinkled with a few random German voices. One has to keep in mind that it’s no easy feat for any Madrileño who can bear the seven or so hours drive south to this remote part of Spain, which has always been an advantage for those looking to get far from the madding crowds, let alone for those coming as far afield as Russia.
So when you see a large number of Russians arriving to an unspoiled, little fisherman’s enclave, you know that all the talk about the increasing number of BRIC travellers travelling abroad are far from being just predictions anymore. Amadeus itself predicted this wave over seven years ago now in a study looking at future travel trends.
Over the last ten years, I have been spending summers in this small remote fishing village on the Atlantic coast, north of Tarifa, in the province of Cadiz. It is a windswept place, not so different in atmosphere from the spaghetti western films of the 1960s except for the white washed fisherman’s homes, and kilometers of unspoiled sandy beaches, stretching all the way from the cape of Trafalgar on one end and practically facing Tangiers a few kilometers away on the other end.
In the village itself there are the neglected ruins of a castle built in the fifteenth century by the Dukes of Medina Sidonia for protection against pirates and later used by local fishermen to store their tuna fishing equipment. The only reason you’d know that we’re in the 21st century is due to the turbo-charged windmills that dot the hilly landscape.
Recently, there have been reports that Russian tourists are flocking to Spain like never before. In fact, the number of visitors from Russia surpassed one million last year for the first time, a nearly 40 percent jump over 2011 and double the amount that arrived in 2010, according to tourism ministry figures. Tourism officials credit a rise in the number of direct flights to Spain, easier visa rules, and the growing appetite of Russia’s rapidly expanding middle class for foreign travel. Today, Spain is the main destination for Russian visitors according to estimates by Turespaña.
Let’s hope that a sustainable type of tourism for travellers from all parts of the world can endure in this location and those like it all over the world.