Barcelona and Madrid lead shopping tourism in Europe, according to Ostelea

France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Spain share more than 83% of the ‘tax free’ shopping market

The cities of Barcelona and Madrid are tied in second place as Europe’s best shopping destinations behind London, according to a report by the Tourism Research, Outreach and Innovation Center of the Ostelea tourism school that also ensures that Spain experienced an 18% growth in tax-free sales, above the European average of 11%.

The study, prepared by Dr. Raúl Travé and directed by Dr. María del Pilar Leal Londoño, analyzes the current situation of shopping tourism and its prospects for the future by analyzing various categories of tourist buying establishments.

The report determines that the cities of Madrid and Barcelona tie in second place (67.1%) as the best European shopping destinations, which closely follow London (67.3% score), leader in the classification ahead of Paris , located in fourth place.

In the Asia-Pacific sector, Hong Kong leads the ranking of the best shopping destinations with a score of 68.5%.

As for the average expenditure of shopping tourism are two Swiss cities, Geneva and Zurich, leading the list with a figure close to 200 dollars (175 euros) for the high level of income of its visitors and the specialization of its tissue commercial in luxury products. Cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and London have averages less than 50 dollars (43.8 euros).

In terms of the percentage that each city contributes to the global total of tax-free purchases, European destinations as a whole exceed 50% of the market share and the audience that has grown the most in this type of sales is Taiwanese (28% ) and Russian (25%).


The Chinese tourist (profile in a sporadic 92% because he travels less than twice a year and spends on average less than 1,500 euros in purchases) values ​​exclusivity and prestige and acquires in order of importance: fashion (34%), watches and jewelry (31%) and leather goods and handbags (27%).

In this sense, France (22%), Great Britain (20.1%), Italy (15.5%), Germany (14.9%) and Spain (10.80%) share more than 83% of the market Continental shopping tax free.

Shopping tourists in Spain mainly buy clothes and accessories (52.2%) followed by watches and jewelery (13.8%), leather and accessories (13.4%) and electronics (7.3%).

The main tax-free sales areas are Barcelona (51%), Madrid (38%) and Malaga (6%) or the rest of the Mediterranean (5%). The highest ticket for shopping tourism (1,011 euros) is located in Madrid’s Barrio de Salamanca, followed by Puerto Banús in Málaga (994 euros), Diagonal (973 euros) and Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona (850 euros).

The report reveals how there is an increase in shopping tourism during Christmas in those cities that concentrate the best Christmas lighting such as the Spanish Malaga and Madrid and other smaller cities such as Colmar, Salerno that top the list of seasonality, followed by Edinburgh , Vienna, London or Budapest. The Croatian city of Salajland occupies the seventh position with its Christmas park.


The report groups in nine categories the recommendations established by the UNWTO in 2014 to «break down barriers to tourism» such as: accessibility, infrastructure, security, cleanliness and attractive location, marketing and promotion of the destination, connection with the tourism value chain, research and development, regulation and, finally, education and training.

The study establishes a dilemma between the distribution of social and economic costs and benefits and the sustainability of tourist destinations. For this reason, and to solve this dichotomy, it determines that it is necessary to establish a fair distribution of the same among the social actors.