The 1973 crisis was the oil crisis, the 2008 crisis was the financial crisis and the 2020 crisis is shaping up to be the crisis in the tourism sector. Spain received in March the visit of two million international tourists, a figure that represents 64.3% less compared to the same month of 2019, according to data published this Wednesday by theINE. A faithful reflection of the first consequences of the coronavirus on tourism, which will worsen in the following months.

The closure of borders and the restriction of travel “de facto suppressed the flow of international visitors to Spain for tourist reasons,” says the INE. The statistical office explains that they have only counted the arrivals of visitors to Spain byroads and railuntil March 16 and by ports and airports until March 21. The positive note, if any, is that those who visited Spain spent 2.7% more on average (1,097 euros) with an increase in average daily spending of 0.9% (152 euros more). In the global accumulated expenditure, the drop is similar to that of arrivals with 2,215 million euros, 63.3% less than in the same month last year.

Spain closes the firsttrimesterof 2020 in negative, with 10.6 million tourists, 25.6% less than in 2019. “The crisis of 2020 will be the crisis of tourism, it has a terrible impact on the sector,” said the CEO of Barceló yesterday. Hotel Group, Raúl González, during an online session organized by IESE.

Beyond the negative effect of the pandemic in March, which will be summarized as “zero” in April and, probably, also in May, the main headache of the sector is what will happen to the summer. Spain usually receives around 10 million tourists in the months of July and August with an expense that last year amounted to more than 20,000 million euros. In the economic radiography sent by the Government to Brussels(Stability Plan)Zero foreign tourist activity is expected in 2020. The transition plan to the ‘new normal’ does not contemplate the reopening of borders and, according to Bankia Estudios, the “tentative date” that the Government is considering is October.

“If it turns out that it is not feasible to travel cross-border in the summer, no matter how much rescue plan the European Union has for tourism, we are dead,” says the vice president of the Exceltur tourist lobi, José Luis Zoreda. In his opinion, the key is in the meeting of transport ministers to be held next week inBrusselsbecause a decision by countries would be “chaotic”.

For the CEO of Barceló, if there is mobility, “there is a possibility of recovery” because “possibly 50% of the population plans to travel in 2020.” Although it seems clear that tourism will change. TheInternational Air Transport Association (IATA)It has already announced that, if social distancing measures are established, the price of tickets will increase up to 54%. “The hypothesis that since there has been no demand it will be very cheap to travel is not going to happen, it will be the other way around,” says Zoreda.

Safe destination

In the absence of knowing the plans of the European Commission, Spain is preparing to maintain one of the main characteristics that have made it an international leader in tourism: safety, given the possible fear of contagion that may be generated around the world. TheInstitute for Spanish Tourist Quality (ICTE), at the request of the Secretary of State for Tourism, has developed 21 hygienic-sanitary protocols, of which eight are already advanced (hotels and tourist apartments, hostels / hostels, rural accommodation, tourist guides, spas, camping sites, restaurants and agencies travel) to ensure that all points in the value chain are free of covid-19. In other words, to guarantee visitors that if they enter a museum healthy, they will also leave it healthy.

The only thing that seems clear, a priori, is the beginning of national tourism. The Government’s objective is that travel between provinces can be resumed on July 1, when the‘new normal’. But “living” on national demand alone is not enough for a sector that last year received more than 83 million tourists, according to the president of the Barcelona Hotels’ Gremi, Jordi Mestre.

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