If there is a word that describes the tourism sector at the moment, it is optimism. Optimism because the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed and the campaign of Easter can be the definitive leap towards recovery longed for two years ago, when the coronavirus fully impacted one of the country’s main economic sectors, which in 2019 accounted for 13% of employment and more than 12% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The increase in international reserves, with levels of 2019 in some destinations, and the forecast that national demand will continue to prefer to stay in Spain as a precaution, support these perspectives.
“At the moment we have a moderate optimism, but necessary. And I say necessary because after everything we’ve been through, we already need to move on this stage”, the general secretary of the Tourism Board, Carlos Abella, explains to RTVE.es. According to him, from the sector “they begin to see light at the end of the tunnel”, and they hope that this will be the definitive one, since last year the summer season “responded very well” but “suddenly” they ran into the omicron variant . “And again back to the abyss,” he laments.
After two campaigns weighed down by the coronavirus, which has left many companies on the verge of bankruptcy, the sector is confident of a strong recovery in the Easter campaign, where a occupancy and an average turnover of 90% in some destinationsalthough there is some uncertainty as to what the impact of the war in Ukraine will be on families’ pockets.
As they reiterate, “there are many differences depending on the tourist area”, but the estimate handled by the Tourism Board places the occupation at around 60% and 70%, with a peak that exceeds 80% or even the 90% on the latest holidays. And it is that, although the masks and some security protocols marked by Health will continue to be in force, the restrictions have been substantially reduced in recent months and “I really want to get back to normal”, they assure. In addition, the weather situation is expected to accompany, once the heavy rains of recent days have been overcome.
“If the advance forecasts of dry and sunny weather are confirmed, it could reach hotel occupancy levels similar to those of 2019“, point out from the Hotel and Tourism Business Association of the Valencian Community (HOSBEC). According to its president, Toni Mayor, this will be “the first great event for tourism” once the pandemic has passed into a stabilization phase and although the The level of infections still remains high, “the truth is that the pressure on the health system has dropped a lot, which is what is truly worrying.”
Good expectations from international markets
The Valencian hotel association bases these positive forecasts on the international factor, which “reveals to be key”, as foreign tourists continue to grow, already represent 50% of the share of overnight stays. The British are once again leaders in the international market, which confirms the good upward prospects for this market. “The good news is that not only does the good performance of national tourism continue, but we are also seeing a rebound in the international market. The British travel again and they have already surpassed the national client for the first time in destinations such as Benidorm, with a view to the expected reservations for this Holy Week”, explains Abella.
In fact, according to the latest data on the issuance of international air reservations to Spain from the tourism intelligence company ForwardKeys, presented last Friday by the Ministry of Industry, arrivals from abroad are expected 13% below the values of Easter 2019. Thus, these numbers place Spain as the fourth most recovered global destination for the Easter campaign, just behind the Dominican Republic and Mexico, with 12% and 5% more reservations than in 2019, and Greece, with a 11% fewer arrivals than before the pandemic.
“#Spain It is among the most sought after destinations in the world by tourists for this #Holy Weekas highlighted in the presentation of forecasts for trips to Spain made today by the @mincoturgob and #ForwardKeys. More: https://t.co/yDvH7GPvtT #tourism #data pic.twitter.com/RnUnlLrZrL“
— ForwardKeys (@ForwardKeys) April 1, 2022
The truth is that the tourism sector in Spain has started 2022 with a positive trend and already in February they recovered 71% of international tourists. Then, more than 3 million travelers arrived and the level of spending exceeded 3.7 million euros, according to provisional data from the Tourist Expenditure Survey (Egatur) published by the INE; while for this summer there are already about 197% of reservations scheduled between June and August.
In addition, many hotels are leaving behind the Temporary Employment Regulation Files (ERTE) and Hiring has skyrocketed nearly 150% from last year. The human resources company Randstad estimates that 63,500 hires will be made, half the number on these dates before the pandemic. They will occur mainly in Castilla-La Mancha, which will practically triple last year’s data, also in the Basque Country and in the Community of Madrid, which will more than double them.
Uncertainty over the war in Ukraine
Given this context, the main uncertainty is how the war in Ukraine in Spain will influence Spanish tourism. For example, Catalonia is one of the favorite destinations of Russians: Only last year some 134,000 tourists from Russia traveled to Spain, despite the restrictions due to the pandemic.
On the other hand, it also matters what the impact it will have on the spending capacity of families. And it is that, with the increase in energy prices, regrets Abella, “it is possible that families decide to cut vacation days or to do so in a more restrained way.” In addition, “the rise in kerosene and fuel prices is going to increase the price of tickets, which also reduces demand,” she adds.
Likewise, the rise in inflation will also have a full impact on the income statements of companies. “In the case of hotels and other types of establishments, energy costs increase in such a way that one of two things: either they transfer this price increase to the customer, with which demand can also be reduced; or they don’t transfer it and the losses are magnified”.
For now, according to the Alliance for Tourism Excellence (Exceltur), the Russian invasion has had a 7% negative impact on tourist bookings Easter, a lower figure than the Exceltur alliance expected at the beginning of the conflict, although it has had a higher effect on the costs of the companies. The invasion has made the prices of energy and other products even more expensive, but the businessmen consulted by Exceltur point out that will only be able to carry forward an average of 26% of the increases of costs, with which 74% will impact their income statements, in a sector that during the two years of the pandemic has seen falls of 54% in its income.
The sector demands a PERTE for tourism
However, from the sector they insist on maintaining prudence. And it is that “we are still far” from recovering the figures for 2019, according to the secretary general of the Tourism Board. “For that we will take a while. At least we will go to 2023 or even in some segments of the tourism sector, such as conventions, it can be even longer”, he stresses.
For this reason, they demand that the Government focus on a capital sector in the economy and design a Strategic Plan for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) that integrates public and private efforts to act on the “most vulnerable and for which there will never again be an opportunity” like the one offered by the EU’s Next Generation funds. “We do not understand how a PERTE has not been made for the tourism sector nor is there any intention, when they are being prepared for other economic sectors. Obviously, I am not saying that they are not needed, but we consider that they contribute much less to employment and to the economy of our country”, underlines Abella.
As the general secretary of the Tourism Board recalls, the ICO credits “have not been enough”, since now the companies must return them and many of them do not have sufficient profitability. “As he said, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as I say, with all these uncertainties Let’s hope that the light we see is not an oncoming train”, he concludes.