Tourists on the beach of Palma de Mallorca last week JAIME REINA / AFP
Another strange summer. With fewer restrictions than the past, but strange. Travel reservations ran as if there was no tomorrow from the moment the traffic light opened to land in Spain at the beginning of the month; hoteliers and restaurateurs rubbed their hands thinking that the spirit of leaving people would allow them to recover in this high season part of what they have lost after 15 months closed or almost; but Boris Johnson arrived and extinguished those hopes. The UK's decision to turn off the tap on holidays in Spain for its citizens, the country's first international visitors for 65 years, with 21.5% of the market in 2019, has returned old ghosts to the industry. Because, let's not fool ourselves, with the Spanish traveler, no matter how much they lengthen their vacations and spend more this year given their desire to spend the summer,the Spanish tourist machine does not even have to begin with.
The United Kingdom keeps Spain off the list of safest destinations for tourism, along with Portugal
Tourism is subject to the fluctuations of governments regarding health regulations to control covid-19. And travelers have to deal with decisions to open or close borders, require quarantines, PCR or antigen testing, a whole panoply of complications that, according to experts, are not always governed by strictly epidemiological criteria. The British imposition of quarantine after traveling to Spain and other European countries has put on the table the political use of decisions that should be based solely on technical criteria. “There are a lot of interests involved. Tourism has a gigantic weight in GDP and countries are playing their cards ”, appreciates Toni Roldán, director of the ESADE Center for Economic Policies.Roldán believes that “the UK has made a deliberate decision to hold tourists with unjustified quarantines. He is doing nationalist economic policy ”.
It is not something trivial. Precisely Spain and the United Kingdom appear as the first two countries among the 20 richest in the world where the contribution of tourism to national wealth suffered the greatest collapse during 2020, with falls of over 62%, according to an analysis recently carried out by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). They lost 127,000 and 190,000 million dollars (106,000 and 159,000 million euros, respectively), almost two-thirds of the total contribution of the previous year, and fell four and three positions in the global ranking.
As decisions are back and forth, and both internal and external pressures are felt strongly, the Johnson Government has just announced that it is considering that British vaccinated with the full dose can dispense with quarantine when returning home from European countries framed in its amber traffic light.
Today the incidence of the virus in the country is higher than in Spain, which has dropped from 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
For the expert from Esade, “the de-escalation strategy for large regions makes neither health nor economic sense.
Small regions of low incidence should be connected and with a clear and standardized classification, not subject to interpretations such as traffic lights.
But it has not been established and countries play politics with tourism knowing that part of the rebound will serve the local economy. "
Aspect of the British beach of Portheor, in St Ives, on June 2nd.Matt Cardy / Matt Cardy
"With a view to the recovery of tourism, there is a certain attempt to ensure that a large part of the expenditure is made in British territory," supports Enrique Feás, principal investigator at the Elcano Royal Institute, "although it is a short-term strategy that It will not be sustainable beyond the current tourist season, since there can be no full recovery without income coming from abroad, and, as there is a margin of interpretation of the data on the incidence of the virus and the dangers of outbreaks, they encourage the security of our own productive fabric this summer ”.
The UK is not the only country that is making use of tourist nationalism. “There is a certain contagion of political interventionism that is wrapped in the anxiety of the sector to get out of the unsustainable economic situation in which it finds itself. Reactions that generate escalating movements in other countries that do the same to protect their productive fabric ”, says Carlos Díez de la Lastra, general director of the Les Roches Marbella hospitality school. Something that will continue like this at least until the European covid certificate comes into force, as of July 1, with the summer more than started.
In Germany and France, for example, rulers have actively and passively recommended their citizens to stay at home to benefit national tourism.
They have even advised against traveling to Spain.
Others, such as the Netherlands, recommend those from bullskin to quarantine for five to ten days.
“There is a clear incentive to avoid spending overflow in other countries, there is no doubt.
Health security also makes them control borders.
Germany and France play at being prudent and, incidentally, try to promote the local sector, killing two birds with one stone ”, adds Feás.
The arrival of foreign tourists to Spain fell by 88.5% in the first quarter of the year
However, José María Cubillo, general director of Mesías-Inteligencia de Marca España, considers that it is not possible to speak of tourist nationalism. “The pandemic and the uncertainty it causes leads States to be prudent and establish travel limitations. Furthermore, Spain has not generated an image of seriousness in complying with health measures. It is logical that there is reluctance, that there are countries that do not want us Spaniards to go or that require RCP, like France, ”he explains. "Spain has criminalized certain countries saying that their citizens came to go for drinks and it is logical that some such as the United Kingdom or France are sensitive."
Because, in the end, shooting at home is as natural as life itself. As much as it hurts to stop earning [than not losing, as Exceltur says] the 386 or 480 million euros that the British spent each week in June and July in Spain in 2019 (that is, about 3,500 million in the two months), they're going to have to conform at least in part. Gabriel Escarrer, CEO of Meliá Hotels International, does not believe that Boris Johnson intends to include Spain in his green traffic light next week in view of the one-month extension of the restrictions decreed last Wednesday due to the virulence of the delta variant. “I am not very hopeful with the review on June 24th. The only positive thing, may be that the two archipelagos get the green light, "he says.The executive is more blunt when saying that it is impossible for the industry to compensate with other international visitors for the lack of British, no less than 19 million of the 83.5 million tourists received a year before the pandemic.
In this shooting for home, the Spanish autonomous communities are gaining prominence.
There is practically no region that has not launched a consumer bonus to boost tourism within its territory.
And thus prevent citizens from opting for another place to spend their spending.
Valencia, Andalusia, Galicia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, the Balearic Islands, Aragon, the Canary Islands, Madrid and the Basque Country are some of the autonomies that have given these aid to tourists, sometimes only to residents in their region, to times to those of all Spain.
Sometimes directly, in others with tax deductions in the income statement.
Hoteliers propose to the Government a Spain voucher to stimulate national tourism
A measure that the industry welcomes: "It is a testimonial gesture of thanking the autonomous communities, unlike the Government, from which nothing has reached us," complains José Luis Zoreda, vice president of Exceltur. But that economists believe less appropriate. “Bonds make less and less sense. They had it last year, when the sector needed direct aid, such as that deployed by France or Italy. The later they are launched, and in the process of vaccination, the less aid to the sector seems and the more aimed at reactivating tourism at the expense of other regions. With the reserves at high levels, as they are, it gives the impression that we want to bias tourists in favor of a territory ”, Enrique Feás analyzes, for whom the aid should be given to tourist companies in difficulties and linked to their solvency.Toni Roldán agrees: from an economic point of view, it would be better to make effective policies to address the debt and solvency problems that companies face, since the risk of bankruptcy is high once the bankruptcy moratorium ends. "Better direct aid than bonuses," he says.
In addition, they are chaos, as are the health measures imposed by European countries, appreciates Raúl González, CEO of Grupo Barceló for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, since they are different from each other instead of being organized at the national level. as they should.
Clear roadmaps are needed to clear the uncertainty of citizens.
Holidays in Spain: from which countries can you travel and what are the access requirements?
"We want to encourage some Spaniards by promoting economic protectionism that we cannot criticize because we are also starring in it", appreciates Gabriel Escarrer.
With or without help, the nationals are going to save the furniture this tourist season, which looks much better than last summer, the worst in history for the world industry.
“This summer we are going to travel, there will be a lot of demand, more than we anticipated.
The national rebound has been appreciated since the state of alarm was lifted and we calculate that between 80% and 85% of the income we had during 2019 can be recovered, ”explains José Luis Zoreda.
Forecasts similar to those handled by the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV).
Guide for the Spanish tourist: everything you need to know if you travel to other communities or abroad
It is no coincidence that the Barceló Group focuses its summer campaign on the Spanish customer, "given the uncertainty that exists in international markets such as the British one." The hotel company expects a positive high season, although, yes, plagued with doubts until the last moment. Because if we nationals were addicted to the last minute to book before the pandemic, now this trend has worsened, as verified by Meliá with its internal data. The traveler seeks security above all things, even price.
According to Escarrer, the chain's sales for July and August are 39% below those of 2019, "a good number knowing that a large part of the reservations are made at the last minute."
The British market is the only one that has more cancellations than reservations, since "quarantine and PCRs are killing tourists."
On the other hand, Germans, French, Portuguese and Dutch are growing in double and triple digits, he says.
In the case of Barceló, Raúl González points out that sales are recovering faster than expected, reaching 50% of those obtained in 2019, 42% in the case of August.
The manager believes that Andalusian and Levantine destinations will perform the best in the two summer months par excellence, given that they are preferred by Spanish demand.
As during the strange last summer, Cádiz, Huelva, Galicia and the Cantabrian coast as a whole will benefit from a large influx of Spanish visitors, estimates Zoreda. As well as "inland and nature tourism, which we believe will be the safest alternative," supports Carlos Garrido, president of CEAV. Another clear winner seems to be the premium segment. This is predicted by the director of the Les Roches hospitality school in Marbella and confirmed by the head of Meliá. People have money saved and want to spend it after many months of restrictions and no travel.
That is why he also foresees that the summer season will be lengthened as it happened with that of 2020, something in which González agrees. There are many reservations for September because the tourist does not want restrictions on their vacations, they are looking above all for security, and they are waiting for herd immunity to travel. With a 20% more budget than last year, as can be seen from a study presented this week by Cetelem, the Spanish will take advantage of the opening in health measures and that vaccination is progressing at a good pace.
However, the beaches that will suffer the most are those preferred by the British: Mallorca, Benidorm, Costa del Sol, Tenerife, Menorca or Ibiza, "where reserves are plummeting", admits Zoreda, since these visitors represent more than 50% of the market, according to Escarrer, which indicates that the islands less crowded and with nature, such as Lanzarote or Fuerteventura, are already well above in bookings of the last record year. They are the ones with the highest demand, above the Peninsula, he says.
Regardless of what the British finally do, and the partial substitution effect that may occur with tourists of other nationalities whose reserves are growing, such as the Dutch, or with new travelers such as the Poles or the Czechs, Exceltur does not believe that the income from foreign tourism will run a fate similar to that provided by the Spanish during this summer.
of the large companies in the sector estimates that they will be 60% lower than those accumulated in 2019. That is counting on the fact that the British land on Spanish beaches as of next week, which is not at all clear, explains José Luis Zoreda.
A better future
With all the precautions of a situation as changing as the one we are living in, and taking into account that the British traffic light can open partially or totally at any time, the tourism GDP for the third quarter of summer would still be 34% below the levels of 2019 (19,505 million less tourist activity), according to Exceltur. The problem is that these results are going to be achieved, despite the significant dammed demand, lowering prices due to the fierce struggle to catch tourists due to the need to open establishments, laments the vice president of the organization. The discounts range between 15% and 20%, confirms Raúl González, who believes that the impact of the lack of British people has not only caused a temporary stoppage of the industry in some destinations such as the islands,where they represent a third of the demand, but rather a slowdown in the recovery process that he himself entrusts to 2024 for his group.
In the whole of 2021, Exceltur predicts that the Spanish tourist machine can move 81,000 million euros, that is, 73,000 million less than in 2019 but 53,000 million more than last year.
A strange new summer of coronavirus.
But better, much better than the past.
How to solve sudoku for the summer
A gibberish, that's what the journey outside national borders and even within has become. The proliferation of restrictions on mobility and socialization is causing travel agency employees to take a master's degree to know the situation of all destinations, said Mercedes Tejero, manager of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV) , in a recent virtual meeting on the covid passport. Something to which the internal reservation departments of the hotel chains are also dedicating themselves. The client looks for information, does not know what to expect before traveling.
The covid green certificate may be the solution as of July 1, when its entry into force in Europe is scheduled. It is too late, said the participants in the forum organized by Círculo Legal Madrid, because most international tourists have already made their vacation reservations, since a large part of them will be back in mid-August. But it can become the long-awaited homologation of sanitary standards in the 27 countries of the European Union and Iceland, Switzerland and Norway.
Felipe García, partner of Círculo Legal Madrid, considers that the European passport aims to stimulate tourism, the sector could increase its income between 10% and 15% thanks to it. "If the autonomous communities manage to start it on time, because some, like Extremadura, are very advanced, although others not so much," he says.
The lawyer advises those who obtain the certificate before July 1, since it can currently be requested and is operating in pilot programs, that it will only be valid until August 12. “This instrument has a handbrake. If there is a country where the incidence increases, the rest can impose mandatory quarantines or veto access to citizens who come from territories with dangerous strains ”, explains García.
Long-haul trips are much more limited.
Mexico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Maldives and Costa Rica are open to tourism and during this month other destinations outside of Europe will follow in their footsteps, according to Pedro Giménez, of American Airlines.
But there is still a lot of uncertainty and it remains to be seen if Spain manages to attract the 15 or 16 million international visitors this summer predicted by the Secretary of State for Tourism.
Queues of travelers at the Orlando airport in late May.Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Gett
The vaccine sets the traveling standard
The correlation between the advance of vaccination against covid-19 and the better performance of the tourism market is clear, according to Raúl González, CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa of the Barceló Group. In fact, the external image of countries such as Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States has improved after the efficient management of their vaccination process, highlights José María Cubillo, general director of Mesías.
In the United States, internal mobility is already at pre-school or higher levels, explains Pedro Giménez, of American Airlines. Even Mexico and the Caribbean are benefiting from the great travel demand of the Americans. In fact, the number of Meliá tourists in this second destination in the last month is above 2019. For Barceló, the United States is currently the largest market with the best performance and with considerable mobility, something that is noticeable in its hotels in the Caribbean and Central America. “The American is traveling. Not the Canadian, ”says Raúl González.
China and Dubai are other markets where Barceló finds an occupation similar to that of two years ago. In the Asian country it even detects a rise in rates thanks to the pull of the internal tourist that in the emirate has not yet occurred.
However, “Europe has the worst performance in the world. It is being a failure as a whole. With the constant and widespread change in safety regulations. Without clear rules of the game and poor government management. Now we have placed our hope in the covid certificates ”, González says, which sets air connectivity in the continent at just a third of that of 2019.
The low number of airplanes is holding back the sector, as close to 80% of international tourists they travel through this route at least to Spain, the first European holiday destination, which suffers from it especially.
And not only that, “it shows that competing countries like Greece and Turkey have made the decisions before us. Being late to the international market will have an impact on us ”, warns Mercedes Tejero, from the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV). Opinion shared by the representative of American Airlines: “In Spain the delay in doing so will mean that we do not have a powerful market. A missed opportunity ”. Because, for example, American travelers who spend the summer in Europe will be concentrated in a single country, and Greece and Turkey have taken the lead, he adds. In fact, the head of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer, admits that Greece has gained market share to the detriment of Spain. The fact that his Minister of Tourism led the action in the EU to save the sector has been rewarded.