Sun, sea and sand are typically top on the minds of Irish travellers to Spain. While most of the more than two million people who visited Spain from Ireland in 2017 were holiday-makers, an increasing number are travelling to realise new business opportunities.
For many Irish exporters, Spain, the Eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, now means business.
The International Monetary Fund recently upgraded its growth forecast for the Spanish economy from 2.4pc to 2.8pc, outstripping Germany, France and Italy.
Spain’s growing economy is being driven by its exporting base, with exports now composing a third of national output, compared to 25pc before 2010.
The economy’s resurgence over the past year has seen unemployment fall, down from 26pc in 2013 to 16pc today. The positive impact of rising employment on consumption and construction activity is fuelling domestic demand.
Tapping into the potential presented by economic growth across the Mediterranean, Enterprise Ireland held Ambition Italy and Spain in June, an event focused on supporting Irish exporters to explore opportunities, identify challenges, and develop strategies to succeed in the two markets.
The 55 Irish companies that attended learned about opportunities in Spain’s medtech, life sciences, ICT, fintech and agritech sectors in particular.
Safety and workwear manufacturer Portwest is one of Ireland’s top exporters to Spain.
“Portwest has been active in the Spanish market for a number of years and each year we continue to grow our market share,” said Portwest’s commercial manager, Orla Hughes.
“There is great potential in the market and by investing and believing in our sales team on the ground, we look forward to nurturing more relationships with key distributors.”
Cork-based recruitment specialists Zartis has also benefited from entering the Spanish market.
“The Zartis team in Spain started with two people just over three years ago, and we have since grown headcount to 54,” said Zartis CEO Padraig Coffey. “Doing business in Madrid is a pleasure.”
Spain’s ICT sector has experienced three years of consecutive growth, with turnover rising to more than €105bn in 2017, among the highest in Europe.
Enterprise Ireland’s Madrid office recently organised an inward buyer visit for ICT giant Telefonica in Dublin.
Six Telefonica executives interested in sourcing new suppliers met with 16 Irish cyber security companies and reviewed their innovative technologies.
The medtech sector in Spain is also ripe with potential for innovative Irish companies, particularly those specialising in healthcare technology. Spain’s medtech sector accounts for 20pc of total domestic healthcare tech consumption, meaning that 80pc of the market is open to foreign companies looking to supply nearly 800 hospitals across the country.
The financial services sector in Spain is also one of Europe’s most developed and is known for its early adoption of innovative technologies. One of the country’s largest banks, BBVA, visited Dublin’s MoneyConf in June and met with eight Irish fintech companies which are now pursuing opportunities in the Spanish market.
In order to succeed in Spain, Irish companies must ensure that they remain patient and invest in the right people on the ground.