View of Valdevaqueros beach, in Tarifa, province of Cádiz.Getty
The tourism sector is holding onto a burning nail to survive until the coronavirus pandemic is slammed for good. And that oxygen balloon is being the traveler resident in Spain, who last July exceeded the number of overnight stays that he made in the same month of 2019, as published this Tuesday by the National Institute of Statistics. Specifically, in the seventh month of the year, 14.9 million were counted compared to 14.8 million two years ago, before the covid. This is a growth of 0.37%, a very slight advance, but it represents a milestone for an industry that has been immersed in the worst crisis in its history for almost a year and a half.
By tourist destinations, in this statistic, Torremolinos and Benalmádena stand out for their improvement in national demand, both in the province of Malaga, which earned around 100,000 nights spent by visitors residing in the country. The Catalan Salou and Lloret de Mar follow a long way behind (over 40,000 more overnight stays than in July 2019). Spanish travelers also won cities such as San Sebastián (34,619), Malaga (31,096) and Valencia (28,255). “There are hotels that have done better August than 2019, but it goes by areas. For example, in the north of Spain there are some who have done very well ”, explains Antonio Catalán, president of AC Hotels by Marriott.
This is one of the positive notes of the data presented by the INE. Although the survey hides a less friendly face with the slow recovery of international tourism, on which a large part of the sector depends. In July, there were almost 39% fewer nights spent by foreigners in the country’s hotels than in the same month of 2019 (it has gone from 43.2 million to 26.4 million overnight stays). Only Ponferrada, Gandía, Albarracín and Vielha e Mijaran slightly improve the data of two years ago, but these are cases with a very low weight compared to the sector as a whole.
If we look at the sum of the trips of Spaniards and foreigners, the good progress of national tourism does not manage to cushion the collapse of foreigners. “It is very hard. This country lives off the international market, not the national one, ”says a senior manager of one of the country’s large tourism companies. Thus, in the total of the recorded overnight stays, there are only a few tourist spots with a positive background, most of them located on the Cadiz coast, inland areas and north of the Peninsula, as happened last summer. Tarifa, in the province of Cádiz, is the one that has won the most nights of tourists: 14,204. It is followed by the Asturian Llanes (12,961), Oviedo (4,832) and Cádiz (4,709). Meliá sources agree that the smile goes by neighborhoods, in this case by areas of the country: “The most affected destinations are those with greater dependence on the international customer, especially the British market, which still presents low numbers in relation to 2019, as in the case of Calvià (Mallorca) ”, they say.
On the opposite side of the table, as the tourist spots that have the most hotel nights to recover, are the big cities and those destinations that always enjoyed a multitude of visits from foreigners. Madrid and Barcelona suffer the most: the gap in July was more than one million overnight stays. They are followed by Calvià (730,845), Salou (681,093), Benidorm (623,687), Lloret de Mar (555,331) and Adeje (541,379). The commercial sector, with a part closely linked to tourism, also suffers from this lack of arrivals both in terms of volume and quality of spending: “It has been a summer marked by local tourism, which, although traveling a lot, spends less at the destination. We miss the long-haul visitor who usually pays for more services at the destination ”, explain sources from the commercial sector who estimate a loss of half of the spending on commerce in Barcelona and Madrid.
The occupation recovers
Regarding the number of open establishments, average occupancy and employed personnel, the figures show a clear improvement compared to 2020. Of course, there is still a considerable gap compared to July two years ago, before the impact of the coronavirus. The estimated number of open establishments according to the INE stands at 14,462, behind the 17,116 in 2019. In terms of room occupancy, this July was 55.7% nationwide, above 38.5% last year but at a certain distance from the 74.3% of two years ago. All of this translates into more employment: the more active hotels and the more arrival of travelers, the more personnel will be needed to serve them. Thus, according to the INE, in July there were 198,105 workers in hotels compared to 116,950 in 2020 (in 2019 there were 282,603).
As for the price, the improvement is also felt. It is another of the values that has managed to overcome the hardest part of the pandemic. That is, there is no longer so much competition for price as part of the demand is reactivated. The price index stood at 122.42 this July (being the base 100 in 2008), with an improvement of 10 points over the figure recorded in 2020 (112.49) and slightly ahead of the year prior to the covid (121 , 74).
On the other hand, if you look at the turnover per available room (RevPAR), one of the most used indicators in the sector when taking into account what is entered for each operating room, the national average stood at 57.15 euros. That is, it almost doubles the data for July 2020, but it is still very far from the figure for 2019 (76.97 euros).
In this way, the gap that still exists and that leaves a good part of the sector at the limit is due to the lack of foreign visitors, which is still far from pre-ndemic levels and will take time to return to normal. A disservice especially for the areas that most depend on these tourists (the islands, areas of the Mediterranean coast and large cities). This setback is also reflected in the data published this Tuesday by Turespaña on international passenger arrivals by airport: there were 4.4 million people in July, more than double than a year ago but almost 60% less than those who did. in that month in the year before the pandemic. There is still a long way to go.