Neither the ad with music by rapper Rayden, nor the messages that we were a safe destination, nor the end of the state of alarm just as the summer season began. Not even the fall in hotel prices, of 9.7% in August. Spaniards have not traveled en masse this summer and August has closed with the worst number of national tourism in the last twenty years. If in 2019 there were 18 million overnight stays by residents, in 2020 it has not reached 12 million, which represents a drop of 34%. It is the worst data in the historical series, which begins in 1999. Not even in the worst of the previous crisis did we stop traveling so much.
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That foreign tourism was going to collapse – or that it was not going to reach the figures of a normal year – was more or less predictable in the midst of a global pandemic. Spain tried to convince the world that it could come with confidence, that the epidemiological situation was under control and the reopening was safe. Not that it was fully achieved, but the sector began to see the light in mid-July, when it seemed that reserves were recovering. The outbreaks of the virus and the subsequent quarantine imposed by the United Kingdom ended all hope.
We already know the result: four million overnight stays by foreigners, compared to almost thirty million in a normal August.
The Spanish have not compensated for these figures. Altogether, adding the months of July and August, national tourism has fallen by 41%. Some tourist areas have achieved relevant occupancy levels, such as Cantabria and Asturias, which have filled 70% of their places and have emerged as big winners of the summer. But the favorite destinations of the Spanish have failed to attract their regular audience.
The Costa Blanca lost more than 600,000 overnight stays by national tourists in August. Almería, more than 400,000. Tenerife, 340,000. Castellón, 330,000. Of the main tourist areas, only the island of La Gomera, the Costa da Morte in Galicia, the Costa Brava in Catalonia and the Arán Valley are positive. Not even Asturias achieved the figures for the previous year: it had 10% fewer overnight stays. The data are from the Hotel Situation Survey, published this Wednesday by the INE.
“What there has been is a debacle. Where there was weight of foreign demand, it has been a catastrophe. Destinations with weight of national demand have saved furniture better, but they have also fallen”, values José Luis Zorera, executive vice president of the Exceltur tourist ‘lobby’. “People were afraid of getting infected, even though we Spaniards had a better perception of our country.”
You must save money
The fear of contagion weighs, but the economic situation does not help. Some 800,000 workers are still in ERTE, receiving 70% of their salary when the SEPE does not fail and they are lucky enough to join. “Consumption has dropped,” says Zorera. “And whoever has not been touched, because of seeing the wolf’s ears, has contracted her propensity to consume.”
The latest published data on the household saving rate, for the first quarter of 2020, prove him right: it rose 6.6% year-on-year. And the analysis of consumption with cards published by BBVA indicates that consumption has not yet reached last year’s levels. We continue to spend more on food and health services than in 2019, but up to 50% less on hotels.
What would have happened if Spain had given a tourist voucher to its citizens, as Italy did? “It would have favored. We asked the Government. But it is bankrupt,” acknowledges the spokesman for Exceltur. “Now, when they have realized the disaster, communities such as Valencia or Andalusia consider it. In no case would the Spanish have traveled without stopping, but it would have mitigated the effect.”
Italy’s promotional campaign was also, in Zorera’s opinion, more ambitious and powerful than the Spanish one. “One of the members of Exceltur is Alpitour, an Italian tour operator. They have improved their turnover by 65% compared to last year. The bonus, the emotional campaign that said: travel through your homeland, help your country …”, grant. “And also the barriers they have put up for Italians to go to other countries”:
After trying to save Easter (which did not happen) and save the summer (which did not happen either), the sector now trusts in saving the winter season in the Canary Islands, since the announcement of the cancellation of Imserso trips has been assumed as another blow to the sector.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism has already given permission to the government of the islands to carry out PCR on foreign visitors, so that it can enhance the image of a safe destination. “We must recover the image that Spain is a controlled country and that the fear of traveling is mitigated. Now it is the low season, but at least let’s save the Canary Islands”, concludes Zorera. “It is the only area with hope.”