Every year, millions of tourists flock to Spain. The vast majority of them do not encounter any danger whatsoever. Spain is a remarkably safe country, just like many other countries in Western Europe.
However, like Belgium, the UK, Germany and France, Spain faces the threat of international terrorism. Last month, Spanish security authorities heightened the country’s terror threat level and deployed more than 40,000 police across the country’s many tourist hotspots.
The threat comes at the beginning of the summer, just as thousands of Brits arrive in the country to enjoy the warm weather, beautiful cities, and stunning beaches. Authorities upped the terror threat to level 4 (out of a possible 5) indicating that the risk of an attack is “severe.”
The security operation, involving more than 40,000 police, was designed as a show of strength designed to deter terrorists from attacking any sensitive tourist sites. The action is believed to come on the heels of recent threats made by ISIS, a terrorist organisation that has been significantly weakened through international efforts over the last five years.
ISIS was responsible for two terrorist incidents in the city of Barcelona in 2017 when cars ploughed into groups of people on each occasion. The authorities in Spain believe that the terrorist organisation may be planning another attack and striking tourists from countries like the UK and Germany.
The UK government has not updated its advice to citizens regarding travel to Spain, although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has stated that Spain will likely be the site of another terrorist attack in the future.
The current UK government advice is for Brits travelling to Spain to take precautions, be vigilant, and follow the instructions of the Spanish police, should there be an incident.
The fact that the Spanish government takes the threat so seriously is a clear indication that Spain is doing all it can to keep tourists safe during the peak holiday season. For holidaymakers, this should be reassuring.
The likelihood of being hurt in a terrorist attack is minimal for people travelling to Spain. Some commentators, however, worry that ISIS is planning a Sri Lankan-style attack on British tourists staying in Med hotels. Authorities in Spain believe that there is a risk of an indiscriminate attack against tourists, which could potentially see dozens killed.
The risk of attack, however, remains low. Spain, like all other countries in Western Europe, lives in the shadow of international terrorism. The latest action by police is in response to a specific threat made against Barcelona in a pro-Islamic State video found by Middle East research organisation MEMRI.
The danger for tourists in Spain comes on the back of higher risk to UK citizens globally. The risk is nothing specific to Spain itself, but UK citizens who choose, as a group, to holiday in Spain.
Spain remains the most popular holiday destination for Brits of anywhere in the world. More Brits travel to Spain each year than French or Italians.
Holidays should be a time for relaxation and reflection. The increased presence of the Spanish Authorities will act as a severe deterrent for any terrorist activities thus reducing the threat. Our advice is to enjoy your trip, take time for yourself, family and friends but if you do witness suspicious activity to notify authorities immediately.