The crisis that hit the Spanish tourism industry following the coronavirus pandemic appears to be over. For more than a year, the sector – which is one of Spain’s main economic engines – has struggled for its survival, with the number of tourists visiting the country at an all-time high. But this summer is on its way to exceeding industry expectations – a feat made possible by the large number of domestic tourists. Indeed, more domestic visitors have traveled through Spain this year than in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit the country.
â€œThe summer has been very good. We have hotels that have even done better than in August 2019, â€says Antonio CatalÃ³n, president of AC Hotels by Marriott.
RamÃ³n AragonÃ©s, managing director of NH Hotel Group, agrees, explaining that the season has been particularly positive for sites in northern Spain and along the coast. â€œThe behavior in Spain was better than the average for our hotels worldwide, with an average occupancy rate close to 55% in July and 60% in August.
The summer has been very good. We have hotels that have even done better than in August 2019
Antonio CatalÃ³n, president of AC Hotels by Marriott
These figures are considered a success, especially given the uncertainty as summer approaches as to the spread of the more contagious delta variant in Spain. The alarm over the strain of coronavirus was so loud that the main source countries for tourism in Spain – the UK, Germany and France – have advised against travel to the country. This concern has, however, been alleviated in large part thanks to the strong progress of the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 in Spain, which has now fully vaccinated 70% of the population.
In addition to the deployment of the vaccine, the savings made by households during the pandemic also helped support the peak summer season, especially among Spaniards who chose to travel within the country rather than abroad. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), Spanish residents made 14.9 million hotel nights in July 2020, compared to 14.8 million in the same month of 2019. This is the highest figure high since the start of the all-time series in 1999. While the increase is small – just 0.37% – it marks a before and after for the industry after months of devastating results. A similar trend was also observed for overnight stays in other accommodation, such as tourist apartments and campsites.
Spain also recorded a record number of domestic tourists in July: 5.8 million, up from 5.7 million in the same month in 2019. While this is also only a slight increase, it remains a good news for the tourism industry. It also explains the increase in tourism spending which, according to BBVA Research, increased by 20% in July compared to 2019.
Even though travel restrictions across Europe have been relaxed thanks to the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, Spain still needs to win back foreign tourists, who are key to the industry. According to INE data on hotel nights, foreign visitors spent 11.5 million euros in July 2021, compared to 28.3 million euros in the same month in 2019, a decrease of 60 %. The total number of tourists in this category also fell by 57%.
This has various negative repercussions: fewer flights, less tourist spending in hotels and restaurants and less income for tourism-related businesses. â€œThese months have been good for destinations that have local tourism, but overseas travelers have been missed. Businesses and restaurants make a living from these visitors in large cities, â€explain sources from the business sector that depends most on tourism.
In terms of air transport, 15 million passengers traveled to Spanish airports in July, half the number in July 2019, according to Spanish airport operator Aena. If we only take into account foreign arrivals, the number drops to 4.4 million, according to TurespaÃ±a, the tourism institute in Spain. This is a decrease of 60% compared to data for the same month in 2019.
Expectations for the German market are positive and we have detected improvement among UK customers. In September, we will approach 2019 levels
MeliÃ¡ hotel group
However, the sector remains optimistic about the rebound in the number of international visitors in the coming months. That prospect is partly due to Germany’s decision to remove all of Spain from its list of countries at risk on Sunday – a move that led to a surge in bookings for the end of August. The Canary Islands were also removed from this list at an earlier date.
â€œSince Germany decided to put the Canary Islands on the green list [of travel destinations], we received a flood of reservations. August has been a good month and it looks like September will be good for this destination as well, â€sources from the Riu hotel chain said.
The MeliÃ¡ hotel group is also optimistic: â€œExpectations for the German market are positive and we have detected improvement among UK customers. In September, we will be approaching 2019 levels. â€
â€œIn the Balearic Islands and the Canaries, the occupancy rate for the summer was in line with what was expected and new reservations continue to be made for September,â€ adds Alejandro Reynal, Managing Director of Apple Leisure Group, who is confident in the positive epidemiological situation. in Spain will allow the season to extend for a while.
Indeed, the hospitality industry hopes to extend the holiday season between September and October by promoting short-term getaways. However, this will be more difficult for coastal destinations which depend on good weather.
In these cases, AC by Marriott’s Catalan cautions against creating false expectations: â€œThe cycles are what they are. The peak season in these summer destinations is in July and August. In September there are people who extend the season, but the stays will be shorter and shorter.
The outlook for the Canary Islands, however, is more positive given that the peak season is in winter. â€œThe forecast is good but it is too early to see if we will see an increase in the occupancy rate. But it is true that there are more and more reservations for November and December, which shows that there is interest, â€explains Reynal.
english version by Melissa Kitson.