In the first half of 2020, the Spanish tourism sector has recorded its worst semester ever, registering a decrease in visitors of 97%. More than 750,000 jobs are at risk. And the sector keeps feeling the impact of the crisis.
According to the INE, the Spanish Statistical Office, in June Spain welcomed only 204,926 international visitors, a decrease of 97.7% if compared to June 2019. During the first semester of 2020, Spain reported just 10.78 million visitors (- 71.7% from the same period in 2019). Tourist expenditures also went down to just €11.84 billion, a decrease of -70.6%.
So far, the Spanish tourism industry has lost 27.3 million visitors and €28.4 billion in revenue. In the second half of the year, there is little hope for improvements due to new epidemic outbreaks and constantly changing travel restrictions.
Starting from mid-March, the Spanish government declared a state of alarm in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19, limiting all non-essential journeys. That month, the number of international visitors dropped by two thirds. April recorded zero tourist arrivals. This figure was unthinkable in a country such as Spain, where tourism accounts for 11.9% of the national GDP. On June 21, the state of alarm ended, and the country reopened its borders to countries of the Schengen Area (except Portugal that reopened on July 1). However, despite relaxed travel restrictions, Spain’s tourism industry has not recovered yet.
All Spanish regions registered a sharp decrease in tourism numbers in the first half of 2020, with arrivals falling 92.2% in the Balearic Islands, 74% in Catalonia, 72.5% in Andalusia and 63.8% in Madrid. Tourist expenditures also saw a sharp decline. According to the latest figures from the INE, tourists spent only €133 million in June, which is just 1.4% of the figure from July 2019.
The situation is made worse by the travel warning issued by several European countries against travel to some Spanish regions. The United Kingdom, Slovenia, and Norway have imposed quarantine on travelers returning from the country.
This may result in a loss of more than 750,000 jobs. “It is the most catastrophic summer season in the last 50 years,” said José Luis Zoreda, deputy president of Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur.
According to Juan Ignacio Pulido, professor of applied economics at the University of Jaén, the Spanish tourism sector had to deal with many other challenging periods, such as the crisis of 2008 and 2009, the 09/11 terrorist attack in New York, and the SARS epidemic back in 2003, but there is no comparison to the current fall in tourist numbers.
Even air travel has been impacted by the crisis. In the first half of 2020, the Spanish airports welcomed only 43.5 million passengers, a drop of 66% from last year’s figures. In June, more travelers preferred to reach Spain by road than by air.
Javier Gándara, president of the Airline Association (ALA), says that the recovery process is being very slow and that the recent travel warnings and quarantine measure adopted by the British government will make the recovery even slower. The United Kingdom is the main source of tourists to Spain. Last year, one in every five visitors to the country came from the UK.