official figures are in - 1,447,599 tourists visited Almería during the first eleven months of 2018. To think: just one more teensy-weensy visitor squeezed in, and we would have rounded up that figure to 1,447,600.
Figures vary by the season, with lots more trippers docking in Almería in the summer than during the lean winter months (known in Mojácar for some reason as 'the Lycra Months'). But, adding last December to this year's crop, we can probably claim 1,500,000 tourists in Almería in 2018.
All looking for souvenirs to take home, which explains the local enthusiasm: they come, they buy, they leave.
They are only here, apparently, for a brief spell, just enough for a sunburn, a hangover and a souvenir made in a Chinese sweat-shop. The average visit being around half a week.
It would be longer, but the bean-counters have been obliged to add the cruise-ship visitors, who are generally here for just six hours or so.
Now, they can't be quite as specific as they would like, as not all visitors are visitors. Some drive in from Murcia and stay in the spare-room. Some are en transit to Melilla or Seville. Some, visiting Almería, are from Almería. Some just crossed the border from Granada for lunch.
Indeed, some dropped by the province more than once in 2018. We didn't see anyone ticking them off on the road between Puerto Lumbreras and Huercal Overa.
The Almería tourist board, and its satellites, is continually looking for more visitors, with some current drivel about bringing them in to see the plastic farms. Yes, a two-week holiday in Spain with all the cucumbers you can wish for.
The only people that aren't added to the visitor list seem to be those who live in this fine province, including the foreign residents.
But, consider this: while there's no promotion, no office, no agency and no budget for foreign residents, who bring 150,000 euros with them to buy a house and another 15,000 or so for a car and a television, who spend their pensions or disposable incomes on living here for the whole year, which lasts a 100 times longer that does half a week, and who are here next year as well (while the satisfied tourist, whose souvenir key-ring has now probably broken, decides on Italy for 2019).
One reason we are seen with slightly wary eyes is that, unlike the visitor, we put down roots. Almost anything else that you can sell someone will then be taken away by the purchaser. Not a house though, that stays put.