Tourism (COVID-19 monograph)
IGN (2021): The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020
Monographs from the National Atlas of Spain. New content
The COVID-19 pandemic had particularly severe effects on tourism as well as on the employment figures of this sector (see the maps on the Quarterly evolution in the amount of employed in tourism as well as on the Monthly evolution in the amount of workers affiliated to the Social Security system). These maps show a sharp drop in employment from March to June 2020 in coastal and urban destinations, which rely heavily on international demand. Later on, after the end of the state of alarm and during the summer, figures recovered slightly until September 2020, when, unlike 2019, the number of workers affiliated to the Social Security system began to fall again, showing the start of the second wave of the pandemic.
Regions with larger proportions of their population employed in tourism (15.1% - 20%) were most affected, like Andalusia (Andalucía), Catalonia (Catalunya/Cataluña) and the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid). Other destinations with smaller percentages of their population employed in tourism and a higher domestic demand, such as La Rioja, Navarre (Navarra) and Extremadura, recorded a lower year-on-year change. Interestingly, despite the Canary Islands (Canarias) registering a more significant fall in employment than any other region, the amount of workers affiliated to the Social Security system in this region remained relatively stable. This situation may be explained by the fact that the Canary Islands (Canarias), together with the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears), registered more furloughed workers than any other region.
Furthermore, tourism accounted for the most significant amount of workers covered by furlough schemes nationwide, a fact illustrated by the graph showing the monthly evolution in the amount of furloughed workers in accommodation and food and beverage sectors, which accounted for 35.3% of all furloughed workers in Spain in September 2020.
The severity of the crisis registered in tourism reveals the remarkable difference between the average hotel occupancy rates in 2020 (33.7%) and 2019 (60.2%).
The monthly evolution of hotel occupancy followed the typical pattern of growth in the summer months, eased by the suspension of restrictions on mobility towards the end of June. However, figures stood well below the pre-COVID-19 period, mainly due to the drop in international demand, which fell from 55.9 million travellers in hotel accommodations in 2019 to 10.8 million in 2020. The drop in hotel occupancy was more remarkable in the typical holiday resorts and urban destinations due to their heavy reliance on foreign demand, whilst destinations with a higher share of the national market, such as Asturias and Cantabria, performed better during the summer.
The restrictions on mobility and the limitations on occupancy imposed on tourist business, as well as the general uncertainty around the pandemic, limited the opening of hotels to the point that there were only 1.2 million beds available in August 2020, just 66% of those on offer the previous year.
Hotel closures and falls in occupancy had negative effects on business profitability. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell to 31.4 euros, a year-on-year change of -48.6%. The regions that registered the most significant drops in RevPAR were the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears), Catalonia (Catalunya/Cataluña) and the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid), with drops over 50%. Destinations with more reliance on the national market saw less pronounced variations, such as Asturias (-11.2) and Cantabria (-17.99). However, their RevPAR stood well below the leading international tourism destinations in absolute terms.
Restrictions on mobility and hotel closings from March 2020 also brought the rural tourism sector to a halt, yet the dynamics of its gradual re-opening are particularly interesting. The lifting of lockdown measures and re-opening of businesses bred a boom in local leisure and domestic tourism in the summer of 2020, particularly in rural areas and natural environments. With the exception of certain destinations where international demand is more prevalent, like the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears), the supply of rural accommodation in Spain, primarily concentrated in mountain areas and scenic regions, caters mainly for national tourism (72.7% of guests on average before the pandemic).
After lockdown and once restrictions were lifted, the appeal of rural tourism increased due to its already successful unique selling points, such as the chance to escape the crowds and a strong focus on promoting sustainability and local identity values.
The growth in demand was such that rural accommodations saw significant increases in some regions in both bed occupancy and average room occupancy.
Occupancy rates in Asturias, Castile and León (Castilla y León), La Rioja, Navarre (Navarra), Catalonia (Catalunya/Cataluña) and Castile–La Mancha (Castilla–La Mancha) were in summer 2020 well above those registered in 2019. Other regions, such as Extremadura, the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid) and the Region of Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana), recorded similar figures to the previous year. However, occupancy rates were lower in 2020 than in 2019 in some territories, such as the Basque Country (Euskadi/País Vasco) and the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears).
Given that rural accommodation is usually highly subject to seasonal tourism patterns, the fact that average occupancy rates in the sector reached 28.6% for July, August and September 2020 is very significant.
Co-authorship of the text in Spanish: Juan Bautista Ferreres Bonfill, Josep Antoni Ivars Baidal and Jose Fernando Vera Rebollo. See the list of members engaged
Adaptation of the text and translation into English for this international version: Andrés Arístegui Cortijo (Translator in chief)
You can download the complete publication The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020 in Libros Digitales del ANE site.