Spain will recover this summer nine out of ten foreign tourists lost during the pandemic | Economy

This summer is going to be like before. It is the phrase that is repeated these days among the tourism sector, experts and the Government, who see how the business is going to register normal levels these summer holidays – whose high season begins this Friday – after two years of crisis due to the pandemic . The Spanish market will recover 90% of the foreign tourists it received in 2019, before the coronavirus paralyzed travel around the world, according to data on confirmed air reservations presented this Thursday at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. Inflation and problems at several European airports due to strikes and staff shortages have not yet had a relevant impact on the forecasts.

National tourism is also still strong, “travel will continue to Spain, even more than in 2019”, said the Secretary of State for Tourism, Fernando Valdés, at a press conference in which he presented a study carried out by the consulting firm ForwardKeys with data from July and August. Domestic arrivals are 3% above those of 2019, especially to various destinations in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Catalonia, and that is without taking into account journeys by train and car, which are the most common in trips within the country .

Regarding foreign tourism, arrivals are 11% below 2019, but the recovery is notable. European tourism, for example, is only 5% below pre-pandemic data, and arrivals from the Nordic countries stand out (they grow from 33% in Norway to 79% in Sweden, always compared to three years ago). But the big source markets are still the UK, Germany, Italy and France. 80% of foreign tourists arrive in Spain by plane.

The weak point is tourism from Asia, which is 70% below the levels recorded in 2019, especially China and Japan, due to the effects of the pandemic. “This type of tourism is important for cities like Madrid and Barcelona,” explained Juan Antonio Gómez, head of Market Intelligence at ForwardKeys. Those cities will be 16% and 17%, respectively, below 2019 levels this summer, based on confirmed air bookings. However, there are specific destinations in Spain that already enjoy higher levels than the year before the pandemic, such as Ibiza, which expects 6% more foreign travelers, Menorca (19%), Lanzarote (8%) and Fuerteventura ( 17%).

The slow recovery of the Asian long-distance market is the reason why it is very difficult for this summer to finally reach or exceed 2019 levels, even if last-minute bookings increase, according to Gómez. “There is not yet a complete normality,” he warned.

The year 2019 was a record as a whole (84 million foreign tourists arrived in Spain throughout the year) and, although the summer of that year was a little weaker than the previous one, it has been taken as a reference for the sector as the last in which there was normality before the pandemic hit.

Inflation and strikes

But the landscape is not without threats. On the one hand, the strikes called by employees of various airlines in Europe (Ryanair, Easyjey, for example) and Europort workers in France, for example, are going to put the season to the test. The lack of staff at some airports has also caused queues at many passenger controls. However, the Secretary of State for Tourism has stated: “At the moment the data indicates that there is an increase in reservations, although we are closely monitoring what happens in the most important markets such as the German and the British, and we do not see significant cancellations”.

On the other hand, persistent inflation, which at the moment is not reflected in the reserves data either. The latest hotel occupancy survey for May conducted by the INE indicates that hotel prices increased by 25.5% compared to the same month in 2021, going from an average of 95.26 euros to another of 125.5 euros. “Inflationary pressure is being transferred to the industry as a whole and tourism is one of them,” said Valdés, but for now “it is not discouraging demand in this high season.”

One of the keys to the future will be to see to what extent this recovery will consolidate after the summer, especially with the shadow of a possible recession hanging over the economy. ForwardKeys forecasts indicate that the level of reserves for the third quarter of the year is 80% of that registered in 2019. Meanwhile, Valdés has said that “the data will tell, I do not dare to make science fiction.”

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