Galicia is one of Spain’s most charming regions to explore, an exceptional reason for many travellers to come and enjoy the delights that the north-western corner of Spain offers. Every year we welcome more than 5 million visitors and even with the rough times of the COVID pandemic, The famous Saint James Way has been a total success. Many people decide to grab their backpacks and become pilgrims through the ancient Roman roads of Europe to finally contemplate the astonishing cathedral at the heart of Santiago de Compostela and enjoy the warmth of the sunlight at Plaza do Obradoiro.
But Galicia is much more than that, green valleys and soft mountains, a place where the wild sea breaks against sheer cliffs. It’s the region of Spain with the most lenght of coastline, thanks to its characterised narrow and rocky “rías” (estuaries). Not to mention that Galicia is also known by being one of the best places to eat seafood in the world.
Economy and Industry
Galicia is the fifth largest autonomous community of Spain in terms of population, with 2 695 645 inhabitants as of 2021.
Galicia is one of the regions in Spain with the best GDP. After the pandemic crisis Galicia’s GDP has grown more than 5% so, if the forecasts are met, this region will be one of the fastest to recover. One of the reasons of this recovery is that counts with a work force characterized by a high level of training and skills, which translates into healthy competitiveness. This is because the education system in Galicia produces the adequate talent that businesses need to fulfil their requirements for new technologies and complex systems.
Many national and foreign companies choose Galicia as the target of their investment, most of them are from Europe but other countries like United States, Canada, Japan or China are also present. To Galicia, business consolidation is considered as one of its prime objectives. The regional government promotes clusters and offers opportunities for foreign partners to approach Galician companies.
Galicia also has innovation as a fundamental objective, and is strongly committed to positioning its industry at the forefront of Industry 4.0 by promoting R&D through innovation policies. The government of Galicia finances the structural expenses of 28 Technological Centres located in the region’s technology clusters to foster open innovation between tech centres and the market.
The Galician Language
The Galician Statute of Autonomy was ratified in 1981, recognising Galician as the official language of Galicia and the co-official language of the community together with Spanish, which “everyone is entitled to know and use”. The Statute also entrusted the political powers with promoting its normalisation in all spheres of life. The Linguistic Normalisation Act, passed unanimously on June 15th 1983 in the Galician Parliament, develops these principles in the Preamble in the framework of “a constructive effort geared towards reclaiming our collective personality and its creative potential”.
Over almost 20 years, several complementary decrees, orders and regulations have been passed to secure the legislative framework and the recuperation of the Galician language, its social use and its promotion in a range of spheres (Administration, education, media, etc.), as well as to establish the Galician toponymy as the official place names.
Galician Culture Today
Today, we enjoy a varied and dynamic culture based on tradition, but which has gradually incorporated contemporary languages. The fact that this land is home to the final destination of a pilgrimage route that has formed the backbone of European culture meant that, throughout the Middle Ages, it acted as a natural magnet for European trends in art and thinking. Contact with other European Atlantic nations also flourished. From the end of the 19th century onwards, migrants that set sail from Galicia to America also played an important role in enhancing Galician culture worldwide.
Nowadays, Galician culture enjoys solid foundations with an increasingly consolidated cultural and creative industry, which represents a strategic sector for Galicia’s social and economic development.
In 2011, Galicia welcomed almost 9.5 million visitors, consolidating its position as one of the leading tourist destinations in Spain. Although the tourism industry took longer to flourish in Galicia than in Spain’s eastern regions, the number of visitors that travel to Galicia is growing by the year, thanks to distinguishing values such as the Way of St. James, with destination Santiago de Compostela, and the quality and authenticity of Galician cuisine.
With facilities to accommodate over 120 thousand travellers, Galicia has an extensive and varied offer of hotels, hostels and guesthouses, over one hundred (115) campsites (for near 35 thousand travellers) and 593 Rural Tourism accommodations. This potential positions Galicia as the fourth Spanish region in terms of the number of hotel establishments, behind the Balearic Islands, Andalusia and Catalonia, and the seventh in Spain in terms of the number of rooms (behind the aforementioned autonomous communities, the Canary Islands, Valencia and Madrid). Pontevedra is the fifth Spanish province in terms of hotel establishments.
Galicia overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian Sea. Its rich 2,000-year-old history is immediately perceived during a visit to this beautiful region. A visit to these lands in north-western Spain makes for a unique adventure packed with tradition, lush scenery and beautiful cities. Galicia neutralizes the borders between land and sea, and both elements merge over 1,300 kilometres of coast, which is home to 772 beaches and their traditional estuaries, or rias, which are navigable all year round.
Galicia flows into the sea from the river estuaries. The Lower and Upper Rias melt into the landscape, creating an unparalleled site for practising Water Tourism activities. There are 17 blue-flag ports: Ribadeo Yacht Club, Ría de Ares Yacht Club, Sada Yacht Club, A Coruña Royal Yacht Club and Royal Marina, Coruña Marina, Camariñas Yachting Harbour, Portosín Yacht Club, Ribeira Yacht Club, Cabo de la Cruz-Boiro Marina; Vilanova de Arousa Yachting Harbour, Pedras Negras Port, Portonovo Yacht Club, Juan Carlos I Yachting Harbour, Baiona Yachting Harbour, Combarro Yachting Harbour, Dávila-Vigo Marina, and Monte Real Yacht Club.
The Way of St. James
There are many ways to arrive at Galicia, but the best way is The Way of St James. It is with no doubt the most ancient route, the busiest and the most celebrated in Europe. It’s not just a hike; it is also a complete and new experience where you can not only enjoy the culture and beautifulness of Galicia, but also meet tons of people from all over the world while arriving to the city of Santiago de Compostela. This path can be made by foot, by bicycle or even on horseback.
This phenomenon started with the discovery of the tomb of Apostle St. James the Elder, about the year 820, in a wood called Libredón where the Cathedral of Compostela stands nowadays. The news of this discovery quickly spread though the continent and Santiago de Compostela became one of the greatest centres of pilgrimage together with Rome and Jerusalem.
The Primitive Way is the original and oldest pilgrimage route. It links Oviedo with Santiago de Compostela and primarily follows the path of Roman roads. Nowadays there are many other routes to follow the Saint James Way from the different corner of Europe, the most known are: The English Way, which starts in Ferrol after a boat trip from northern Europe; The French Way, which is the Jacobean Path itinerary with the most historical tradition and the most international recognition.
Economy and Industry
Population-wise, Galicia is the fifth largest autonomous community in Spain, with 2,795,422 inhabitants in 2011.
The leading economic sectors in the autonomous community are those that are deeply rooted in the economy thanks to direct investments and the development of the auxiliary industry, and the rapidly-evolving sectors with good expectations for short-term development that offer exceptional rates of growth.
Automotive: Galicia’s turnover amounts to €6,800M (representing 12% of the Galician GDP), generates 19,700 direct jobs (10% of Galicia’s industrial employment), and 32% of Galicia’s total exports. The PSA Peugeot Citroën plant in Vigo is the most important production plant in Spain. In fact, 17% of all vehicles made in Spain are manufactured in Galicia.
IT: In Galicia, the IT sector accounts for 4.8% of the GDP and employs 1.6% of the working population (over 16,000 jobs). The Galician IT sector stands out for its rapid development and has grown 45% over the last five years. This sector is one of the major driving forces behind R&D&I.
Timber: Galicia leads the production of timber in Spain, with a forested area covering 1,405,173 hectares. Galician productivity stands at 207.95 m3/k2, exceeding the Spanish average (28.66 m3/k2) by far.
Quality of Life and Welfare: Galicia offers extraordinary conditions for an excellent quality of life thanks to its demographic configuration, climate and landscape, and to the existence of activities with major potential for improving these conditions. These include leading metalworking and motor vehicle industries, advanced services and supplies activities, geriatric services and services that encourage active lifestyles. Galicia’s historical, cultural, educational and leisure heritage offers major potential.
Biotechnology: Health sciences and health-related activities –including the science and innovation system, the healthcare system and the associated business system– are expected to account for over 1/6 of the GDP in coming years. As a result, a growing portion of the collective wealth will be connected to the healthcare sector and to Galicia in particular, where the figure allocated to health and healthcare amounts to 1/3 of the Regional Government’s budget.
Renewable Energies: Galicia offers excellent geographical and socio-economic conditions for technological development and the production of renewable energies. Since the year 2000, renewable energy has rocketed from 2590 MW to an estimated 9951 MW for 2012. In terms of wind power, Galicia is the fourth largest producer in Europe, and takes sixth position in the world ranking.
Outsourcing: Networking, technologies (ITC), shared values and flexibility and adaptability are the keys to a competitive offer.
Logistics: After the creation of the motorways of the sea, Galicia became a strategic location on the transoceanic routes between Europe-Asia, Europe-Africa and Europe-America. The advanced development of planning and coordination measures ensures a smooth functioning of its ports and harbours, and the specialisation of its ports have allowed the installation of a large amount of equipment for specific types of goods.
Ports and airports
In Vigo, Galicia has one of the three Free Trade Zones in Spain, and the only one in the northwest of the peninsula.
Galicia”s communication networks are further complemented by its three airports in A Coruña, Santiago and Vigo, all of which comply with the requirements of the European Commission to be considered as EU airports of an international character. Galicia’s three airports currently offer a series of daily flights connecting the region with Spain’s main cities, together with numerous direct international connections.
The share for Galician foreign trade rose in 2011 to 124.96%, higher than the rate for Spain as a whole by 42.73%.