The tourism sector will make a full summer profitable with travelers willing to pay more

A crowded beach. / FILE, ARCHIVE

Hotels raise prices and traveling by car will be much more expensive, although tourism will not suffer while waiting for a "complicated" autumn

Edurne Martinez

Before the pandemic broke out and the tourism sector took the worst of it, the average room in Spanish hotels was billed at 82.60 euros per night, according to INE data. Now, three summers and billions lost by tourist companies later, that same room is paid for 95 euros, 15% more. This data gives an idea of ​​the recovery of the sector, which has exceeded all expectations.

As soon as the restrictions due to the pandemic have ended, millions of foreign tourists have come back to Spain looking for the same sun and beach as before. But also interior, gastronomic and cultural plans in a context of "health security" that was not taken into account before and that is now "basic" when choosing our country, confirm from the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Chat).

The rise in prices has allowed the hotel sector to exceed in the second quarter the income it had in the same period of 2019 despite having a slightly lower occupancy. The latest data from the INE indicate that in May the expenditure made by international tourists reached 8,023 million, very similar to the pre-pandemic level. Moreover, the average expenditure per traveler was 1,152 euros compared to 1,028 in 2019, 12% more. On a daily basis, this average expenditure grew by 26%, to 177 euros.

With these data on the table, the sector faces a very positive summer in terms of employment, only 3% below that of 2019; and billing, with a forecast of total income per hotel room 11% higher than pre-pandemic.

But in any case, the increase in tourist prices does not fully compensate the cost increases that companies are having to assume. From Exceltur, the tourist employers, they assure that on average the businessmen will barely be able to pass on 20% of the total cost overruns on the clients. “Despite the rise in prices and the evident better business profitability, the reality is that the margins are lower and that this rebound is not as profitable as could be expected,” explains José Luis Zoreda, its executive vice president.

Zoreda emphasizes that the sector "is not a generator of inflationary tension", as they are being accused, but rather a "victim" of energy and raw material cost overruns that are not being fully transferred to customers. According to his figures, tourist prices rose an average of 7% in June, compared to the 10.2% general inflation rate. The most, accommodation, whose price grew by 9.2% compared to the same month of 2019. But other subsectors such as air transport are even 3.5% below the prices before the pandemic.

Some extra costs that the hotel sector is suffering especially due to its high dependence on energy, and more so in the summer months. This item alone has led them to increase their expenses by 34%, according to data from Cehat, which indicates that in general the accommodation sector is having to pay around 25% or 30% more for food, the rise in energy and labor costs, since many agreements are linked to the CPI.

Foreigners spend more

The best news for the sector comes from the side of foreign tourism, currently almost at 2019 rates and with revenues that even exceed those registered that year by 2.8%, with data from Exceltur. Among the reasons for this strength are the desire to travel abroad after two years of restrictions and the "attractive rates" displayed for advance reservations.

In this sense, the 'premium' tourist is coming back to the country and the prospects are "encouraging", confirmed from Turium, an organization that promotes quality tourism in Spain. They assure that even infrequent destinations in summer, such as Madrid, are registering high occupancy rates. They explain that it is "surprising" how much time travel planning and reservations have shortened: "The 'last minute' has become the general norm." And although they recognize that inflation does not help, compared to other countries "we are still competitive" in prices of gastronomy, transport or leisure for this long-haul tourist who usually spends more on his trip.

The "traveling rage" that has been unleashed is unprecedented, says the vice president of Exceltur, who estimates revenue for the sector at almost 152,000 million at the end of the year, only 2% below 2019. For now, the bad context macroeconomic is not affecting, but Zoreda acknowledges that "the rise of summer will have to coexist with a more complicated autumn." From Cehat they detail that the rate of hotel cancellations is still 19% higher than that of 2019, but it has already been reduced by half compared to last year.

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