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In 2013, and apropos of nothing, someone in The Guardian told me that “the problem with the Spanish economy is in its fixation on tourism and construction”.

I thought about this for some time, about Spain’s supposed unique reliance on two sectors and the baggage of historical misconceptions and stereotyping that accompanied such views.

Consequently, I decided to respond more substantially, and not just with a terse “no, you’re wrong”, in an effort to try and dispel at least some preconceptions.

So, here is a reposting of my comment from that time.

What does Spain make?

Well, amongst other things (and it should be emphasised that all these are export products and/or are markets in which Spanish companies operate internationally), we can take into account the following:

  • Spain today is the world’s eighth largest producer of automobiles and its car market stands among the largest in Europe (I’ve read in some journals that in Europe only Germany manufactures more cars than Spain).
  • It makes automobile components, wheels and tires.
  • It has a thriving industry in home electronic products/domestic appliances. Ovens, hobs, extractor components, food preparation machinery, fridge and freezers, etc.
  • Major civil and military aviation construction and components..
  • Aeronautical engines and gas turbines.
  • Complex systems design, development and delivery. Including aerospace, space, medical, scientific systems. For example, INDRA is a world-class player in this space.
  • Electronics.
  • Ships and boats.
  • Textiles.
  • Apparel. Companies in this space include ZARA, Jooma, etc. Designing and producing some of the ‘most wanted’ designer clothes in the world.
  • Foods and beverages, including some of the best olive oil and wine in the world. And much, much more, including a rapidly-growing ‘organic’ food sector – ‘ecological’ it’s called here; and, the quality is strictly monitored and controlled.
  • Metals and metal products.
  • Chemicals.
  • Machine tools.
  • Clay and refractory products – high quality designer tiles, porcelain wash basins, toilets, etc.
  • Lighting. High quality industrial and domestic lighting solutions.
  • Footwear. Formal footwear, special purpose footwear, footwear for casual wear, beachwear and sportswear.
  • Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
  • Furniture. From avant-garde to traditional.
  • Petroleum, gas, alternative energy generation, energy distribution, energy trading. Repsol, Endesa and Iberdrola are amongst the big players in this space.
  • Telecommunications. Of which Movistar (Telefonica) is the largest player, who also operate in other countries under the Movistar and O2 brands.
  • Public works and infrastructure development and maintenance. Roads, bridges, by-passes, etc. All over the world. Ferrovial are a major player in this space.
  • Shipping. Mercantile and passenger transport. Companies operating in this space include Balearia and Acciona.
  • Trains – Trains and carriages. Companies like CAF and Talgo are key players in this space. Spanish companies are also involved in rail infrastructure projects – including high-speed – all over the world.
  • Transportation. Spanish companies are involved in getting people from A to B, in many places, not just in Spain.
  • Banking and other Financial Industry Services. Spanish financial houses such as Banco Santander and BBVA are significant and internationally recognised players.
  • Tourism and Hospitality Industry. This may come as a surprise to some, but Spanish companies are not just involved in this business just at locations in Spain. Large and small Spanish companies operate in these hospitality markets worldwide.
  • Entertainment, art, culture. Much of which is universally appreciated.
  • Health-care. The most advanced high-tech hospital outside of the USA is located in Dénia, Alicante.
  • You may not even have guessed this, but Spain even manufactures and exports snowmobiles and golf carts – and, no doubt other personal mobility vehicles.

I am aware that I have also not provided an exhaustive exposition of “what Spain does”, and that what I have written here is still somewhat terse. so therefore I would be happy to expand on any of the points mentioned above.

So, taking this information into consideration, would people still claim that Spain is just about tourism and construction?

Well, clearly not, and although tourism is an important sector, and Spain has natural, social and cultural attributes that tend to attract enthusiastic visitors from other countries and continents, it certainly isn’t the start nor the end of things.

Thanks for reading.


File under: Good Strat, Good Strategy, Martyn Richard Jones, Martyn Jones, Cambriano Energy, Iniciativa Consulting, Iniciativa para Data Warehouse, Tiki Taka Pro

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