Americans Continue to Move to Spain in Record Numbers

Almost three years ago, I wrote about the growing number of Americans who were moving to Spain and buying houses, including in Malaga province and the Costa del Sol. Since then, the trend has continued noticeably, making it worthwhile to revisit the subject and the reasons behind this phenomenon.

American & Spanish Flag

According to Spain’s National Statistics Agency (INE), the number of US citizens officially residing in Spain grew by 13% from 2019 to 2021, rising from 39,812 to 41,953. This steady increase, even during the pandemic, reflects Spain’s enduring popularity amongst Americans seeking to relocate.

Why Americans Choose Spain

There are several key reasons why Americans are flocking to Spain. These include the Mediterranean climate, outdoor lifestyle, and the affordable cost of living compared to the USA and Northern Europe. There is also high-quality healthcare and education, vibrant culture and cuisine, political stability, and low crime rates.

For digital nomads and remote workers, Spain offers an enticing blend of natural beauty, modern conveniences like fast internet, and incentives through the new digital nomad visa (as well as the Golden Visa for property investors). Retirees also find Spain’s relaxed pace of life, rich history, and accessible healthcare system very attractive for their golden years.

Demographics of American Expats in Spain

What is interesting, but perhaps not surprising, is that the Americans relocating to Spain come primarily from the states with the highest Spanish-speaking populations, especially California, Texas and Florida. The warm climates, Latino culture and prevalence of the Spanish language in these regions seem to make the move to Spain particularly appealing and comfortable. As well, relative to destinations in Asia, such as Thailand, the time difference is manageable between Spain and even the western states of the USA. This facilitates easier communication with American employers and clients.

Popular Destinations in Spain for Americans

In terms of where Americans are landing, Madrid attracts the highest number of American residents, with 11,570 US citizens living there as of late 2022. This represents over 25% of the total American population in Spain. Barcelona province comes second with 8,156 American residents, followed by Andalusia (7,304), the Valencian region (4,549) and the Balearic Islands (1,464). By late 2022, Malaga province was home to 2,692 American residents. That makes it the province with the fourth-highest number of US citizens.

The Appeal of Malaga and Costa del Sol

The attraction of Malaga in general and the Costa del Sol in particular is obvious. Over 300 days of sunshine, along with a warm climate, beach lifestyle, and golf courses, are all big draws.

And while the region boasts no shortage of luxury in the form of mansions, exclusive clubs, resorts, and Michelin-star restaurants, it remains remarkably affordable. House prices on the Costa del Sol are still below their peak levels in 2007. There is affordable, first-world infrastructure, often at a higher level than the USA itself. For instance, the availability of high-speed train service between major cities. Alongside this is the ubiquity of high-speed internet, cheap and high-quality mobile service and more.

The Costa del Sol also boasts quick access to an international airport, with non-stop direct service to New York City. There are also now eight US cities, including LA, Dallas and Miami, that offer direct flights to Spain. The city’s cultural offerings, safety and international airport, add to the appeal for American property investors and residents alike.

Impact of American Home Purchases in Spain

The number of foreigners purchasing homes in Spain in the last year continued the general trend higher. Foreigners accounted for 21.4% of all home purchases in Spain in the first half of 2023. Americans saw a whopping 36.64% increase in transactions in the first half of 2022. In fact, the number of American home purchases has risen from 192 in the first half of 2007 to 1,339 transactions in the first half of 2023. That is almost a tenfold increase in just fifteen years. What the above-linked article notes, importantly, is that the rise in Americans purchasing homes reflects a similar, even greater rise in the number of Americans choosing Spain as a tourist destination.

In one year alone, the number of American tourists visiting Spain grew by 41% to 3.4 million in the first ten months of 2023. Based upon that, we can estimate that American tourists spent at least 5 billion euros in the Spanish economy. However, in the Baleares, a study found that Americans spent double the amount per person as Germans and British. That means it might be much higher.

Andalusia’s Growing Popularity Among Americans

According to the Junta de Andalucia, the number of American tourists visiting Andalusia is also growing rapidly:

“Andalusia received 311,300 visitors from the United States during 2022, 233% more than the previous year.”

The total number of American tourists for 2023 is not yet available, but the same press release noted that just between January and April, over 170,000 had stayed in hotels in Andalusia, 70% more than in 2022 in the same period. That was prior to the re-establishment of the direct, non-stop flight from New York to Malaga, which began on June 1, 2023.

The Economic and Cultural Impact of American Expats

The arrival of Americans is a boon for the local economy, culture, and infrastructure. They bring investment and purchasing power that provides jobs and fuels further economic activity. With tourism making up 12% of Spain’s GDP, this is no small thing. For many visitors, an initial trip leads to a desire to experience Spain’s culture, climate and lifestyle more permanently through relocation or the purchase of a holiday home.

Spain’s Incentives for American Expats

One of the things that Spain has done well in recent years has been to provide incentive mechanisms to encourage Americans – and others outside of Schengen – to move here and purchase homes. By launching residence visas linked to property investment (Golden Visa) or remote employment (Digital Nomad Visa), Spain has created streamlined paths to residency. The number of Americans purchasing houses shows that these are paying off, though we shouldn’t overstate their impact either. According to experts, it is likely that a strong US dollar and social and political factors, as noted above, are more important. Nonetheless, it is part of creating an overall welcoming climate in Spain.

Future Trends and Predictions

It seems increasingly possible that America will have another Trump presidency by the end of 2024. If that is the case, there will almost certainly be more polarisation and a more fractious climate – and no alleviation of the material conditions that encourage American migration, such as high healthcare costs.

If that does come to pass, I think it will increase the flow of Americans seeking to live abroad. It is in Spain’s best interest to maintain an open-door policy and welcome Americans who want to come to live here. That means increasing the marketing and incentives and showing Americans a welcoming face.

By Adam Neale | Opinion | February 19th, 2024

Americans Continue to Move to Spain in Record Numbers

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