Tourism in Spain: the Covid-19 crisis devastates the Spanish tourism industry | Economy and business


The Spanish tourism industry continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis. According to figures released Monday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), only 204,926 international visitors arrived in Spain in June, a drop of 97.7% compared to the same month in 2019. This culminates the worst semester never recorded for the Spanish tourism industry, with only 10.78 million visitors, a decrease of 71.7% compared to the same period in 2019. Tourism spending in the first half also fell by 70.6% to only 11.84 billion euros.

This means that the sector lost 27.3 million visitors and 28.4 billion euros in turnover in the first half compared to the same period last year. And the new outbreaks, coupled with travel advisories issued by several countries, suggest things will not improve significantly in the second half of the year.

It’s the most catastrophic summer season in the past 50 years

José Luis Zoreda, vice-president of the Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur

The tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting global travel restrictions. In mid-March, the Spanish government declared a state of alarm in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, which was limiting all non-essential travel in the country. That month, international visitors fell by two-thirds. The situation worsened in April and March, with zero tourist arrivals recorded – a figure previously unthinkable in a country where tourism accounts for 11.9% of gross domestic product (GDP). In mid-June, German tourists visited the Spanish Balearic Islands as part of a pilot program, and on June 21 the state of alarm ended and Spain reopened its borders to the countries of the Schengen area (with the exception of Portugal, which reopened on July 1). But despite more lax travel restrictions, the Spanish tourism industry has failed to rebound.

All Spanish regions recorded a sharp decline in the first half of the year, with tourist arrivals down 92.2% in the Balearics, 74% in Catalonia, 72.5% in Andalusia and 63.8% in Madrid. Tourism spending also fell in line with the drop in the number of visitors. While this figure does not represent exactly how much visitors spend in a destination, given that it also includes travel costs, which are paid in the country of origin, it is a good indication of the dire situation at which the tourism industry is facing. According to the latest figures from INE, Spanish tourists spent 133 million euros in June, just 1.4% of the figure for the same month last year.

Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca is usually packed with tourists in the summer.CATI CLADERA (EFE)

To make matters worse, several European countries have since issued travel warnings to parts of Spain, while the UK, Norway and Slovenia have reimposed quarantine measures on travelers arriving from the country.

Industrial groups estimate that this will lead to even greater losses than the 40 billion euros planned and warn that 750,000 jobs could be threatened in the second half of the year. “This is the most catastrophic summer season in the last 50 years,†said José Luis Zoreda, vice-president of the Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur.

Tourism spending in the first half of the year fell 70.6% to just 11.84 billion euros

“The Spanish tourism industry is going through the most difficult summer in its history,†admits Juan Ignacio Pulido, professor of applied economics at the University of Jaén. “We have known other difficult times, like the crisis of 2008 and 2009, September 11 [terrorist attacks in New York] and the SARS virus in 2003, but there is no comparison with the [2020] fall in the number of tourists.

The crisis has also impacted air transport. In the first half of the year, 43.5 million travelers passed through the airports managed by the Spanish airport operator AENA, a decrease of 66% compared to the figures of last year and 50% less than in 2009, when Spain was suffering from the fallout from the financial crisis. . In June, more travelers arrived in Spain by road than by plane.

“What is happening is that the recovery is very slow,” said Javier Gándara, president of the Airlines Association (ALA). The association says there was a 40% drop in flights in June compared to the same period in 2019. And according to Gándara, the travel warning and quarantine measure introduced by the British government “will render the recovery much slower â€.

The UK is the main source of tourists to Spain – in 2019, one in five visitors to the country was British. Although it is not yet known what impact the travel measures will have on the sector, Luis Zoreda of Exceltur warns that in the Mediterranean region, “the Spanish tourism industry will in no way be able to compensate for the drop in the number of foreign visitors. “.

english version by Melissa Kitson.


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