The Spanish tourism sector entered its peak season with optimism. Among other things, due to the push of national tourism after the end of the state of alarm. The good health situation and the relaxation of mobility restrictions drove the trips of residents in Spain in the run-up to summer. So much so that, according to the data on spending with cards revealed by BBVA Research, at the end of June there was already a greater outlay on trips around the country by residents of Spain than on that same date in 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak. Despite this, the industry has not yet managed to reverse the collapse of international arrivals, which are still far from reaching numbers similar to those before the pandemic.
The report from the bank’s research department includes tourist spending with a card for residents of Spain outside their province of residence (where they usually spend). And the result is a very powerful rebound from May 9, just when the state of alarm ended, to score an advance of 4% in the last days of June of this year compared to the same month of 2019, according to the Analysis of national tourist flows in real time presented this Monday.
“The return to normalcy in 2021 benefited above all some Mediterranean autonomies (Andalusia, Murcia and the Valencian Community), as well as Asturias and Cantabria,” the study collects. The chief economist of BBVA Research, Miguel Cardoso, acknowledged that it is very difficult to foresee how the umpteenth spike in infections will affect tourism spending, although he explained that the impact on these disbursements is decreasing. “People feel safer because they have been vaccinated or because government measures on mobility have been more effective,” Cardoso clarified.
These positive data coincide with others already handled by the sector. For example, the exponential growth of hotel reservations from the end of the state of alarm to exceeding pre-pandemic levels on June 26, according to the SiteMinder portal. However, all this tailwind is being held back by the slow recovery of foreign arrivals. “The consumption of foreigners continues to weigh down the growth of total tourist spending, which in June is 20% below the 2019 records,” the report affects if both figures are added: those of residents in Spain and foreigners.
This difference in rebound means that recovery varies greatly by community, depending on their dependence on international visits. Among the most benefited, Andalusia and Valencia stand out, which are 20% above the expenditure recorded in 2019. On the opposite side is Madrid, which is having a harder time getting out of the quagmire and is still more than 10% below the prepandemic levels. “Recovery is slower because it is an urban destination and because it depends more on business tourism,” explained Giancarlo Carta, an economist at the Spanish and Portuguese Studies Center. On the other hand, the two archipelagos, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, highly dependent on tourism and air transport, have experienced a linear recovery, without great progress.
Without main motor
All these positive data cheer up the sector and give it some air. But without the arrival of international tourism, the true engine of the travel industry, the recovery will be incomplete. The Government’s forecast is to recover half of the arrivals in 2019, a figure that BBVA Research also points to. Still, at the end of June, according to the bank’s study, it was below 40% of spending at the prepandemic levels.
At the start of the summer season, the optimism of residents’ travel was shifting to an expected strong rebound in international arrivals. A souffle that has been lowered in recent weeks due to the increase in infections by the delta variant and the doubts of large issuing markets for travelers such as Germany and France. Also the United Kingdom, which left Spain out of its green list (countries to which it was possible to travel without mandatory quarantine upon return) for weeks, although in this case it will open the mobility tap for those vaccinated with a full schedule as of the next Monday. This factor is key for the industry, as was also highlighted this Monday in the forum Promotion of the tourist flow between Spain and the United Kingdom, organized by the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain.
The event was closed by the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, who has been optimistic about the recovery of tourism, although he did not want to set dates due to the uncertainty derived from the pandemic. “It is very important that full vaccination works and that people feel relatively safe to travel again. In fact, the new wave of infections is not leading to the same levels of hospitalizations thanks to the immunization of the population ”, said the ambassador.
In the specific case of trips to Spain, Elliott has highlighted the turning point that will be marked on July 19: “It will be as if it were on the green list,” he said. Among the speakers was also Juan Gárnica, director of the Savills hotels, leisure and tourism division in Latin America, southern Europe and the Mediterranean, who has stressed the need to recover these travelers: “The engine of industry and growth is foreign tourism ”.
On the hotels side, there was, among others, Javier Águila, President for Europe of Apple Leisure Group (ALG). In his case, he hopes to save the summer and, above all, hopes that there will be a good end of the year in the Canary archipelago: “If nothing goes wrong, there will be a very good winter season in the Canary Islands.” Of course, volatility is still very present, as Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2, has insisted on several occasions during the forum: “Recovery will largely depend on governments not panicking again and closing destinations.”