With the arrival of July, Spain is preparing for its first Operation Exit in a summer still marked by the incidence of the coronavirus. Industry forecasts predict a better summer season than 2020, something easy, since it was the worst on record, but still well below pre-pandemic levels. The hope is national tourism (the DGT expects 91.2 million trips in the summer campaign, the same as in 2019) and the unknown is in the arrivals of foreigners. The accumulated incidence of infections rises again, the macro-outbreak in the Balearic Islands damages the image of a safe tourist destination and, to top it all, the delta variant of the covid threatens to limit mobility again.
The tourism sector reaches the second summer in a very touched pandemic. He has been stranded for almost 16 months and, although the reactivation is already in sight, it has not just arrived in a forceful way. Until May, as published this Friday by the National Statistics Institute (INE), 3.2 million foreign travelers arrived in Spain. This represents a drop of 89% compared to the same period in 2019. If compared to last year, the decrease is also notable (almost 70%), and that despite the fact that then since mid-March he was under house confinement. and restricted international mobility.
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On the spending side, the collapse parallels that of arrivals and coincides with that 89% decline. In the first five months of the year, foreigners spent almost 3,350 million euros, far from the more than 30,500 million in the same period the year before the coronavirus crisis. On a positive note, last May was the first month of 2021 in which more than a million travelers have visited the country thanks, in large part, to the relaxation of mobility restrictions after the end of the state of alarm on May 9.
Thus, companies face a decisive summer and their survival is at the expense of what happens in the coming months. The productive fabric is asphyxiated after more than a year with non-existent or very diminished income. The good news that arrived has given them the courage to endure: the accumulated incidence fell day after day until it dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days; Spain opened up to the world for the vaccinated; Within the European Union, the covid passport that facilitates tourist mobility between EU states is already in force, and the United Kingdom included the Balearic Islands in its green list (although not yet to the rest of Spain).
Delta variant threat
However, this good news has faded in recent days and there are more and more clouds on the horizon. On the one hand, the macro outbreak among students in the Balearic Islands has stained a pristine record of autonomy that had led it to be the only region chosen by the United Kingdom where its residents could travel without the need to quarantine upon their return. To this must be added the change in the trend of the accumulated incidence in the country, which has rebounded (this Thursday it remained at 134 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days) despite advances in the rate of vaccination . Among the reasons: the relaxation of sanitary measures and the increase in parties and crowds of people in open spaces without using a mask.
In the sector, there is also a concern that is gaining more and more weight: the impact of the delta variant of the covid, predominant in the United Kingdom and which has already put Portugal in a bind. The Government, faced with this possibility, introduced the mandatory test for British tourists who want to enter Spain without being vaccinated. This may slow down part of the arrivals, although the Executive believes that almost half of the foreign visitors will recover. “We expect the arrival of some 16.9 million international tourists to our country this summer, 45% of those who came in the same period of 2019,” said the Secretary of State for Tourism, Fernando Valdés, it is Wednesday in the Senate .
Despite this, the employers’ associations and the main tourist groups do not have them all with them and they view the example of Portugal with fear. On the one hand, because the neighboring country managed to enter the green list from the UK at the start, but Downing Street pulled it out in its first update. A first setback, as companies prepared for a level of arrivals that was no longer real. And then, as if that were not enough, the impact of the delta variant in the country increased and the incidence soared. Consequences? Germany, which unsuccessfully claimed to impose quarantine on British travelers in the EU, has warned that it will impose restrictions or even ban the entry of nationals of countries that are not capable of containing contagions, something it already does with its residents who arrive. from Portugal (they will have to quarantine due to the prevalence of the new strain). This, if it happens in Spain, would suppose the coup de grace for a very punished sector.
More national mobility
At three in the afternoon this Friday, this first major operation of the year has officially begun, which will end on Sunday night. These days, the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) foresees 4.4 million trips by road, a figure that rises to 43.3 million for July as a whole and 91.2 million for the entire summer campaign. This start of the holidays also coincides with the increase in the price of fuel, so part of the travel bill will rise.
To facilitate mobility on the road, Traffic has announced that it will install reversible and additional lanes with cones at times of greatest traffic flow on certain roads. Works that affect the carriageways on all highways will also be halted to minimize the impact on traffic. And all security measures will be deployed to monitor the correct behavior of drivers on the road, for example with 1,300 active radars. The next special operations to leave and return from vacation will be on August 1, August 15 and at the end of that month.
The start of the holidays will also affect rail transport. Renfe has put up for sale about 600,000 seats on AVE, Long Distance, Media Distancia and Avant trains in this first operation that leaves the summer, which means expanding the offer by 6.9%, with train reinforcements on the routes with greater demand. Thus, the services that connect Madrid with the Valencian Community and Catalonia, as well as the entire Mediterranean Corridor and on trains to the Andalusian coast, will be strengthened. Air traffic, meanwhile, noted another increase in travel. Spanish airports will operate a total of 17,209 flights between Thursday and Sunday, according to Aena. Of the total planned trips, 8,053 are national and 9,156 international (the majority within Europe).