South China Morning Post
Tourism business recovering strongly
The recovery of Spain’s tourism industry began slowly in 2021. With many restrictions still in place, the country welcomed just 31.1 million tourists. However, this year saw a long-awaited relaxation of the country’s Covid-19 travel restrictions and entry requirements, bringing with it a legion of eager tourists from around the world.
“By July 2022, we reached 39 million tourists with an expectation to reach 2019 figures. Up to August, the trajectory has been positive,” said Manuel Vegas, president of the Spanish Association of Hotels Directors.
“Since March, we have noticed that tourism has recovered quite a lot,” concurred Rosa Lisandra, president of APIT Madrid (Association of Official Tourist Guides). “Not only do we have local tourism to Madrid, but international tourism to the capital city has been on the uptick.”
Lisandra has observed tourists from Mexico, the US, Argentina, South Korea, France, China and a number of Central European countries, returning to acclaimed attractions, from the Prado Museum to the Royal Palace.
Spain’s tourism industry accounted for 12.4 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2019, with 83.5 million tourists visiting that year. But the figure fell to only 19
million in 2020, contributing just 5.5 per cent of GDP.
“What we have seen during the summer season is a high demand from international tourists that we expect to continue to rise. We do not know if the number of visitors to Spain would have been even higher if there had not been the war [in Ukraine],” said Juan Luis Barahona, president of the National Federation of Rental Vehicles.
The latest figures from the Spanish government reveal that over 2.6 million people were working in the tourism sector in August. This means the sector added over 257,000 new jobs, a surge of 10.9 per cent from 2021.
However, it is still challenging for the industry to find qualified personnel. “With this year’s momentum and the boost from the summer season, there has been more employment in the sector. But there is still a lot of difficulty in finding qualified personnel,” said Guillermo González-Outón, CEO at Pikotea, a company that specialises in digital solutions for the hospitality industry.
Following the loss of tens of thousands of waiters throughout the pandemic, the food and beverage industry is ripe with employment opportunities. “More than 50,000 qualified waiters are needed in the sector,” said Francisco Gea, marketing director at restaurants system provider Last.App.
While there is cause for optimism, Vegas said expectations for this autumn and 2023 are conservative, citing the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as well as inflation as two areas of concern for the recovery of the tourism sector.
Despite the challenges, many noted that a recovery is indeed happening. “The transit of travellers has reached similar or higher levels than before the pandemic,” said Jesús Jeréz, marketing director at Hotel Mayorazgo, a four-star hotel in Madrid’s city centre.
It is worth noting that business tourism is also back in full force. Constantí Serrallonga, director at trade show organisation Fira Barcelona, noted that trade fair activity in Barcelona has regained its bustle.
“We face the coming months prepared to host and organise events of great national and international relevance,” Serrallonga said, adding that full-strength trade fair activity would be a key economic driver for the business sector.
The city expects to host more than 100 events, fairs and congresses in the fourth quarter of this year alone.