Local tourism figures paint a desperate picture after a year of pandemic

The kitchen of a hotel which has been closed since March.
The kitchen of a hotel which has been closed since March. / SALVADOR SALAS
  • Around 12,000 companies and self-employed workers have gone in the past year, and losses in Andalucía have risen to around 16 billion euros

An examination of Andalusian tourism after a year of the pandemic shows a sector on artifical ventilation which needs a drastic rescue plan to survive. Among other reasons, because behind every statistic there is a story, a company and a large number of workers and suppliers who have been badly affected.

The worst crisis ever to hit this industry has already eradicated 12,000 small and medium businesses and self-employed workers in this sector, because they have been unable to carry on with so few tourists, according to the 2020 report by the Tourism Committee of the Confederation of Businesses in Andalucía (CEA).

The figures show that last year the region only received 41 per cent of the number of tourists who came in 2019, which means there were 13.4 million fewer visitors. Of these, 85 per cent were from Spain and elsewhere in the EU and international markets. They didn't stay as long as usual and spent six per cent less. This meant that income from tourism dropped by between 75 and 80 per cent, resulting in a loss of 16 billion euros, due to the restrictions on international travel.

"We are one of the regions which has suffered the most, together with the Canary Islands, Catalonia and the Balearics, because of the weight of tourism on the Andalusian economy. It accounts for 12 per cent directly, but indirectly the figure is more like 30 per cent. If we don't save tourism, we won't be able to save the economy," said the president of the CEA Tourism Committee, Miguel Sánchez.

The crisis is affecting all tourism segments. The figures speak for themselves. Hotel occupancy dropped by 80 per cent, travel agencies have lost 90 per cent of their business and the restaurant sector is down by around 70 per cent. In addition, more than 75 per cent of hotels on the coast have been closed since the pandemic began, apart from a month or two in a summer which proved to be a disaster.

In fact, occupancy figures show why many hotels stayed closed, because only ten per cent of beds were occupied in urban hotels and the figure did not exceed 40 per cent along the coast, even in the summer. And that is when 30 per cent of hotels were closed anyway, so there were 100,000 fewer beds available.

All this has meant that businesses in the restaurant and accommodation sector account for more than 60 per cent of the 102,000 furloughed workers in Andalucía, and the sector is asking for this escape valve to be extended to the end of this year.

The current major threat which is shaking the foundations of tourism businesses is the heavy business debt, a real ticking bomb which could blow up in the form of thousands of bankruptcies and redundancies. It is calculated that the debts of these companies has shot up by 35 per cent. The countdown to paying back the ICO loans is putting stress on the sector after a year in which figures have worsened every month and the future looks even more uncertain. "The uncertainty is as serious as the pandemic itself," PM Pedro Sánchez said recently, referring to the fact that herd immunity through the vaccination process is the only means of salvation.