CEHAT: Hoteliers predict an almost record summer, but cancellations rise 19% compared to 2019 | Economy

Tourism will experience a real recovery this summer, with levels of activity very close to those prior to the pandemic, according to the Spanish Confederation of Hoteliers and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT). But he fears a complicated autumn: “Let’s enjoy what we have, because there is a lot of uncertainty,” said its president, Jorge Marichal, on Thursday in relation to the “threatening macroeconomic environment” that could complicate the final stretch of the year. Cancellations, which skyrocketed in 2021 due to uncertainty in travel due to covid, have fallen by half this year, but are still 19% above 2019. About the Imserso travel program for the elderly, whose conditions are running out Before publishing, hoteliers warn that the Ministry of Social Affairs “is endangering” their future by refusing to review rates.

The demand is, however, strong, and more than compensates for the percentage of cancellations that hotels receive, which are close to 20%, according to the report on tourist forecasts that the employers prepare with the consulting firm PwC. The greater flexibility that customers have been given since the pandemic (with the possibility of canceling the stay at no cost until almost the last moment) has led some travelers to book without being very clear about the trip due to the possibility of being able to change plans. But there are also two elements that explain the level of cancellations: chaos at airports and high inflation, which in some cases are discouraging travel plans.

“The problems at the airports, especially the British ones, are affecting Spain and other countries. We are not the only ones”, said Marichal. “And the situation is not going to change quickly, because to work at an airport in the United Kingdom you need to pass a series of courses that can last a month or so, that is, those vacant positions could not be filled until then, and that if they find labor”, he warned. He also sees it as logical that there are tourists who cancel their vacations because high inflation has significantly eroded their purchasing power and has put gasoline prices through the roof. In addition, hotel prices have risen, although the sector assures that they are below the general CPI, and defends that their costs have grown by 30% due to the rise in energy prices.

But the desire to travel after two years complicated by the pandemic has a much greater effect and the demand is very strong. The sector has recovered 87% of the foreign tourists it had before the pandemic, in 2019. In the second quarter of this year there are 9.2 million reservations registered, compared to 10.6 million visitors in the same period from three years ago.

For its part, national tourism is strengthened and exceeds the levels of 2019: in the second quarter of 2022, 9.4 million national tourists staying in Spanish establishments were registered, 400,000 more than in 2019, according to data from CEHAT, which brings together to 51 associations throughout the country, with 16,000 hotel establishments.

Indicators for the economy as a whole, however, raise fears of a less optimistic autumn. Growth prospects are diminishing, the cost of financing is rising both for individuals with mortgages and for companies, and everything indicates that inflation, although it may peak at some point in the year, will remain at historically high levels until minus 2024. “We no longer know what to expect, but we trust in the resilience of the sector,” said Marichal. The near parity of the dollar and the euro may favor the arrival of more tourists from the United States.

Immersed in danger

The conditions of this year’s Imserso travel program, which the Ministry of Social Rights has just published, have put hotels on a war footing. The employers assure that, without a revision of the rates, it is not viable and fewer and fewer hotels will want to participate in this initiative, transcendental to generate activity in the sector in the low season.

The general secretary of the CEHAT, Ramón Estalella, has said that “it is inadmissible” that the Ministry “talks about updating income and that its Imserso programs go to 0%”. The program has been “sensational” in deseasonalizing the tourist season, he has said, and allowing hotels to stay open in the low season. But “it needs to be updated, because it was done 34 years ago.”

The hoteliers, who have asked to negotiate the issue with the Ministry, are having “very little reception” in the Administration regarding this matter, added Marichal, who has warned that it can “jeopardize not only the program, but also to companies” because the program “is not appropriate to the times we live in”.

In 2021, with an annual inflation of 2.7% in May, the sector calculated that the rate of 23 euros had to be updated to a range between 27 and 32 euros, based on the calculations made by the University of Alicante so as not to work at a loss. In 2022, with an annual CPI of 8.7% in May, the figures rise to a range between 32 and 38 euros, which in practice would mean a rise of between 40% and 65% on the current 23 euros .

The Ministry of Industry supports the demands of the sector to adapt prices in order to continue maintaining the program and, at the same time, to be able to revise upwards the wages of its workers.

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