The annual Fedele report, unveiled at its recent convention, shows that the number of students increased from 87,508 in 2015, the fourth consecutive year of growth for the federation's member schools.
With more schools completing the survey last year (88), Fedele said an extrapolated figure for the same number of schools in 2015 was 92,779 students, equating to a 5.1 per cent increase last year.
Student weeks, meanwhile, increased by 1.3 per cent from the extrapolated 2015 figure to 309,004 last year.
Commenting on the growth, Ana Cózar, Director of Fedele, Español en España, told StudyTravel Magazine, "Firstly, according to research carried out by Instituto Cervantes about the evolution of Spanish as an international language, our language is becoming more and more important and is increasingly being incorporated into educational systems. This fact, of course, has a very positive effect on the Spanish sector in Spain.
"On the other hand, Spain is now a safe and stable country in a moment of international instability in other countries, therefore the decision to send younger students here is easier."
She added, "Fedele and the national institutions have been making a great effort to promote Spain as an educational destination for several years and we understand that this is also a result of our enthusiasm and investment in promotion."
The highest increase in student numbers by region came from the Baleares Islands (11.7 per cent), followed by Madrid (11) and Comunidad Valenciana (10.6). Two of the Fedele's seven regional associations - Casilla Y Leon and Barcelona - experienced slight declines last year.
However, growth was uneven across Fedele's membership. Just over 40 per cent of member schools recorded an increase in business last year, while 35 per cent suffered a decline and 20 per cent had a steady year. Ana said Fedele was analysing the details of this polarisation of the sector in terms of growth.
Just over half of students in 2016 (52 per cent ) were group students, while 48 per cent were individuals.
Italy remained the top source country for Fedele's member schools and increased by 9.3 per cent - compared with the extrapolated figure for 2015 - to 14,904 students.
Germany was the second-largest source country in 2016 with 12,597 students, a 3.6 per cent rise, followed by the USA (9,947), France (8,541) and the UK (8,421). Fourteen of the top 20 markets increased last year.
Ana said that Spain's stability had benefitted the industry and that this had mostly been noticed in the consolidated markets. She said Fedele was hoping for increments from newer markets, particularly in Asia, in 2017.
There was growth in the market share of teenage and young adult students, with the 19-to-25 cohort representing 32 per cent and the 12-to-18 age-group accounting for 31 per cent.
Agents were the most important channel of recruitment for Fedele members in 2016, accounting for 45 per cent of all students recruited - an identical figure to the previous year - while direct internet bookings provided 30 per cent.
"Fedele has always considered agents as a strong key partner for the promotion of Spain as a destination for learning Spanish. In 2016, we undertook some actions, such as the Fedele partner agency option, with the aim of improving these relationships and offering to the agencies useful tools to promote their schools," said Ana.
"At the same time, we have been improving our Annual Meeting so that agencies perceive it as a tool to learn more about our industry and not just as an opportunity to contact schools." The 2017 event will take place in the Baleares Islands from October 8-10 with a new concept, Ana said.
In terms of marketing techniques, 70 per cent of reporting Fedele member schools attended international agent workshops last year, while 62 were delegates at agent workshops in Spain, such as Fedele's Annual Meeting and the StudyTravel Alphe Spain conference.
By Matthew Knott