18th September 2021
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Fears for tourism sector, as Spain records lowest number of visitors in first 6 months of 2021

There is growing concern in Spain’s tourism sector that 2021 is heading for another incredibly challenging year, as government data reveals that during the first six months there were just 5.4 million international visitors.

In the last ‘normal’ year before Covid in 2019, there were 38.1 million international tourists recorded in the same six-month period.

The 2021 data equates to approximately half of the 10.7 million recorded in the equivalent period in 2020, which was effectively during the months of January and February, before Spain’s first State of Alarm stopped all tourism in mid-March.

The total number of foreign tourists who visited Spain during 2020 had fallen by over 80% to 19 million, the lowest figure since 1969, with the pandemic devastating one of the country’s key industries. Spain was the second most visited country in the world in 2019, receiving 83.7m visitors during the full year. Its tourism sector normally accounts for 12.3% of the country’s GDP – and it also generates more than 2.6m jobs in the country.

The stark numbers reflect the devastation of travel restrictions in all countries that have impacted international travel to Spain, and which continue to hamper confidence returning to tourist consumers from many countries, and from the UK in particular.

This is highlighted by the figures for 2021 showing that there were 1.2 million visitors from France and roughly the same number from Germany, contrasting significantly with the 273,333 of British travellers recorded in the same period.

Benidorm Beach Safety
Benidorm beach being prepared as part of the beach safety measures during July 2020. (Ayuntamiento de Benidorm)

British tourists were effectively banned from travelling to Spain until May, and since then have requirements to complete PCR tests and complete numerous documents, along with regular changing of guidance from the government about travel to and from Spain.

This has dented confidence in British tourists making bookings for holidays in Spain and is unlikely to change significantly until testing requirements are reduced and travel guidance is consistent.

The latest travel guidance is expected to be announced by the British government on Thursday, but with Spain’s continued high infection rates there is still concern that travel restrictions will continue for British tourists. France and Germany are also expected to continue to have restrictions in place during August.

Recent data about the impact of vaccinations and a return to more normal life across most European countries, however, should hopefully open travel up more in the weeks and months ahead, subject to containing any fluctuations in Covid cases or emergence of variants, or future waves.

Spain has excelled in the rate of vaccinating its population in recent weeks and this will help confidence return to international tourists and travel requirements from other countries eventually lessening or disappearing.

Whether this will happen in time to save any of the remaining summer season is not certain. But when international travel does return to more normal levels, Spain will be relieved to have come through the pain that the sector has experienced over the last 18 months.

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