Coronavirus pandemic crushes Spain’s tourism industry
Spain’s tourism industry is continuing to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis, according to figures published on Monday by the National Statistics Institute (INE), as just 204,926 international visitors arrived in Spain in June, a drop of 97.7% from the same month in 2019.
This tops off the worst semester on record for the Spanish tourism industry, with just 10.78 million visitors, a fall of 71.7% from the same period in 2019, and tourist spending has also plummeted 70.6% to just €11.84 billion in the same period.
In total, the sector has lost over 27 million visitors and €28.4 billion in revenue in the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year, and the new outbreaks, coupled with travel advisories, issued by several countries, suggest that things will not improve significantly during the second half of the year, particularly in the mainland.
The tourism sector has been one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting global restrictions on travel. In mid-March, the Spanish government declared a state of alarm in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, which limited all non-essential trips to the country.
That month, international visitors fell by two thirds, and the situation worsened in April and March, with zero tourist arrivals recorded, a previously unthinkable figure in a country where tourism accounts for 11.9% of gross domestic product (GDP).
On June 21st, the state of alarm came to an end and Spain reopened its borders to countries within the Schengen Area (with the exception of Portugal, which reopened on July 1st), but despite this, Spain’s tourism industry has been unable to bounce back as of yet.
All of Spain’s regions recorded a sharp drop in the first half of the year, with tourist arrivals falling by 92.2% in the Balearic Islands, 74% in Catalonia, 72.5% in Andalusia and 63.8% in Madrid. Tourist spending also fell in line with the drop in visitors, although 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, but it is a good indication of the dire situation the tourism industry is facing.
According to the latest figures from the INE, tourists in Spain spent €133 million in June, which is just 1.4% of the figure from the same month last year.
Making matters worse, several European countries have since issued warnings against travelling to regions in Spain, while the United Kingdom, Norway and Slovenia have reimposed quarantine measures on travellers from the country.
Industry groups believe this will result in even greater losses than the €40 billion forecast, and warn that 750,000 jobs may be at risk in the second half of the year. “It is the most catastrophic summer season in the last 50 years,” says José Luis Zoreda, the deputy president of Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur.
“We have had other challenging periods, like the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and the SARS virus in 2003, but there is no comparison to the 2020 fall in tourist numbers.”
The United Kingdom is the main source of tourists to Spain, as in 2019, one in every five visitors to the country was British. Although it’s not yet known what impact the travel measures will have on the sector, Zoreda warns that in the Mediterranean region, “the Spanish tourism industry will not in any way be able to compensate for the fall in foreign visitor numbers.”