In late 2013, the local authorities of Madrid promoted retail tourism as a strategy to boost growth following almost four years of recession. The initiative was to promote the city as a pure shopping destination and position Madrid as a benchmark in dominant tourist markets, especially amongst Asian visitors who usually target London and Paris as the top destinations for shopping. With this in mind, the authorities have improved public amenities as well as the public realm beyond the luxury districts. One of the initiatives was to install LED screens to mimic the flavour found on Piccadilly Circus in London and Time Square in New York echoing also what Asian tourists usually see in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.
Since 2014, Madrid has received an average of 5 million foreign visitors a month without being dependent on the summer season like other Spanish locations. Tourists spent a total of €1.3 billion in 2014. Over the past six months to March 2015, the number of foreign tourists was 25% higher than in early 2013. Today the greatest numbers visiting Madrid come from China and the US, followed by the French, the British and the Italians. The strategy of the local authorities to attract Chinese visitors has so far been a real success. The international fame of Spanish fast fashion retailers such as the Inditex Group brands (Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti etc), Desigual, Mango and Bimba & Lola have definitely helped the strategy of the local authorities. And as most of the purchases are related to these Spanish brands, the anticorruption law of the Chinese government has not affected retailers in Madrid like it has affected luxury retailers in Paris. In addition, these famous Spanish brands remain 20% to 30% cheaper in Spain than in France or Italy. This in part explains the high share of French and Italian shoppers in Madrid. Finally, the fall of the euro is making Madrid an attractive place for both British and American shoppers: the European currency has lost 15% against the sterling and 20% against the dollar since 2014.