Foreign Tourist Arrivals In Spain Plunge 64.3% In March; Only Domestic Tourism Can Save The Season

Spain's tourism-related GDP to rise 3% between 2018-19, outperforming the country's economyVintage poster of tourism promotion in Spain

Spain received two million international tourists in March, 64.3% less than year earlier, after its borders were closed from the mid-month to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. In the first quarter of this year, the number of tourists who visited Spain fell by 25.6% to close to 10.6 million, according to the Statistics on Tourist Movements at Borders (Frontur) from the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The plunge in international visits extended to all countries of origin: 397,117 visitors came from the UK, Spain’s main source of foreign tourists, representing 20% of the total and a 64.2% decline from a year earlier. France sent 288,903 (a decrease of 57.3%) and Germany, 277,862 (65.7% less).

By Community, The Canary Islands was the main destination for tourists in March, with 22.8% of the total, followed by Catalonia (20.1%), Andalusia (15.0%) and the Valencian Community (12.6%).

Regarding the type of accommodation, the number of tourists who used market accommodation fell by 65.9%. Within this segment, hotel accommodation fell by 67.6% and rental accommodation by 56.5%.

In 2019, Spain clocked up for the seventh consecutive year an all-time record in international tourist arrivals, with 83.7 million visitors. But with borders closed sine die, it seems that only domestic tourism can save the 2020 season.

To this end, the tourism authorities have been working for weeks on the health protocol which will be implemented from May 11. This is when the provinces that meet the requirements to move to phase 1 of the de-escalation will be able to partially reopen terraces with a 50% occupancy limit. It is also envisaged that hotels and tourist accommodation will be reopened, but excluding common areas and with certain restrictions.

While waiting for this moment to arrive, the Spanish tourist market can take a look at itself through the mirror of China. It is establishing the pattern for a return to normality in tourism, as in all sectors of the economy. In its first litmus test on the May 1st holiday, after controlling the outbreak of coronavirus, the Asian giant registered 115 million domestic trips. According to figures from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, tourist spending in the period amounted to 47.56 billion yuan (6.215 billion euros).

The trips were of shorter duration and to nearby destinations as demand has not yet recovered, with many fearing a possible resurgence of the virus. In fact, official information indicates that the number of trips fell by 41% in comparison with the same period of 2019.