If you pay particular attention to the UK media you might be tempted to imagine that British holidaymakers either spent the summer on long haul flights to destinations such as Mauritius and the Maldives, or were packing their buckets and spades to enjoy a good old-fashioned staycation in Cornwall, or a resort town like Blackpool or Skegness.

While it’s certainly true that the average European holidaymaker is now quite happy to set his sights on a far-flung location for the annual summer holiday, all the evidence shows that Spain and the Costa del Sol still occupy a place in the hearts of many.

Figures released recently by the Junta de Andalucía show that for many British, German and Scandinavian families the love affair with Southern Spain is far from over – in fact the 2011 summer season was one of the best ever.

Tourism Minister, Luciano Alonso, stated that: “Andalucía has had one of the best summers in history, in fact probably the very best!”

The Junta has predicted a growth in tourism of between 2.5 and three per cent by the end of 2011, compared to last year. Given that visitors were also prepared to spend 40 per cent more on flights to Spain this year than they did last year, the country’s prospects look as sunny as the summer weather.

Minister Alonso’s confidence in the future was clear as he observed that, “The tourism industry was the last to enter the recession and now looks as though it is the first to emerge from it.”

With the rising price of oil making long-haul flights more expensive, Northern European tourists are relying on destinations closer to home – but far enough away to ensure a regular supply of sun. This alone makes the Costa del Sol a reliable choice, but for many there is also the temptation of familiarity; every year thousands of families make return visits to much loved resorts and Marbella – in particular – never fails to attract media attention.

Michael Liggan of Altavista Property Spain says: “We have found that many of the people who have bought houses with Altavista have been visiting Spain for years. They are attracted by the unique combination of Spanish friendliness, great weather and the fact that it’s easy to make yourself understood, since nearly all of the local facilities feature staff that can speak a variety of languages. This has always been true and the Costa del Sol will continue to be supported by new generations who are looking for a combination of sun, sea and sand with plenty of sightseeing opportunities for history and culture buffs.”