SPANISH tourism bosses have warned of ‘ruin’ after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said international travellers would be unlikely to return until the end of summer.
The PSOE leader told the World Tourism Organisation on Tuesday that 70% of the Spanish population would need to be vaccinated before the country would be ready to begin receiving foreign holidaymakers as it did before.
“Only mass vaccination will open the way to the normalcy that we want,” he told the conference in Madrid.
“The Government is working to vaccinate at the highest possible rate – and in fact Spain is the ninth country in the world in vaccinations and one of the first in Europe – to reach the end of the summer with 70% vaccinated, which will make Spain much better prepared to receive international tourists.”
But that is worrying news for a sector which lost €106 billion in revenue in 2020 after seeing a 70% slump compared to the year before – and that was with almost three COVID-free months at the beginning of the year.
The vital tourism industry went from accounting for 12.4% of GDP in 2019 to just 4.3% in 2020, falling to levels not seen in 20 years.
But 2021 has got off to a worse start, with 85% of demand currently blocked by travel restrictions.
Tourism is expected to see year-on-year losses in turnover of around 80% – or €60 billion – in the first quarter.
Exceltur, which represents some of the biggest tourism companies in Spain, said this week that the Government must plan to recover by the summer by accelerating the vaccination process and by providing €5 billion of direct aid to avoid mass bankruptcies.
Currently, 2021 is expected to recover 50% of the losses seen in 2020, but there will still be a €58 billion black hole compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic figures.
But those forecasts get more pessimistic as a full recovery appears to be getting repeatedly pushed back, with 70% of business owners now expecting ‘business as usual’ to return in 2022, while half believe it will be 2023, reported El Mundo.
The lack of foreign tourists in 2020 cost the industry €55 billion as there were 65 million fewer tourists. It also cost the industry 700,000 jobs.
“The figures from 2020 are devastating,” Exceltur Vice President Jose Luis Zoreda told El Mundo.
Travel agents in the Balearic Islands saw sales drop by 90%, in Catalunya 80% and Valencia by 72%.
“Most entrepreneurs do not dare to guess how this first quarter is going to be,” Zoreda added.
“But if tourism does not return until after the summer, all forecasts would be ruined.
“Any expectations of recovery in 2021 depend on how vaccination procedures evolve, and our ability to achieve unique procedures that speed up mobility.”
Zoreda believes vaccinating workers in the tourism sector, as is being done in Dubai, could help to restore travellers’ confidence.
But it is also important, he said, for big markets like the UK, Germany and France to achieve herd immunity.