Spain's tourism sector is forecast to 'lose' 72.5 billion euros this year

Holidaymakers on a Benidorm beach.
Holidaymakers on a Benidorm beach. / EFE
  • Exceltur, the association that represents major employers in the sector, estimates 20.3 billion of income will be lost from July to September alone

Businesses in Spain's tourism sector had hoped that the summer season would throw them a lifeline. But, despite the success of the coronavirus vaccination campaigns, it is now looking bleak with the spike in Covid-19 infections and the spread of the Delta variant.

Exceltur - the country’s lobbying group that represents airlines, hotels, travel agencies and car rental companies - estimates that it will only be possible to reach 65 per cent of the tourist activity this summer compared to the figures for 2019, which will mean 20.3 billion euros of lost income compared to the third quarter (July to September) of the year prior to the pandemic.

The association forecasts that activity will recover mainly due to national demand, which will reach 91 per cent occupancy compared to the summer of 2019. However, foreign demand will remain at 46 per cent compared to 2019, three percentage points below Exceltur's forecasts in April due to "recent outbreaks and infection rates", said José Luis Zoreda, vice-president of the employers' association at a press conference.

Expectations for the whole of 2021 are slightly more optimistic than those that Exceltur gave in April. According to its calculations, tourism activity will close the year at 81.9 billion euros, although still 46.9 per cent below the 155 billion that were achieved in 2019, and one point better than the estimates in April.

Tourism employment remains badly affected and, in June, there were still some 245,000 people in the ERTE furlough scheme.

Zoreda explained that they want to see "the glass half full", but fears that the recent increase in infections and the return of some restrictions could slow down the recovery of tourism. In his opinion, some of the activity lost in these summer months could be recouped in autumn if the weather is kind.

Among the measures demanded by the employers for the recovery and restructuring of the sector, Exceltur, would like to see new incidence rate metrics at the EU level, so as not to "raise alarm or punish" outbreaks that today generate far fewer adverse effects than when the metrics were first agreed.

"We must distinguish that the levels of hospitalisation are not comparable with those measured by these metrics last year," said Zoreda, who explained that we will have to live with Covid for a long time and we will have to know how to "discern" the severity as with other endemic diseases.