Tourism takes centre stage in Spanish economic recovery

Advert Travel Gazette

Tourism is Spain’s “oil without wells” of the Spanish economic recovery, according to Ramon Estalella, the Secretary General of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT).

During the financial crisis, the Spanish tourist sector was one of the few sectors able to cope with the economic downturn, thanks especially to foreign demand which hit historical records. It will probably hit a record high again this year, with a predicted figure of 68 million international arrivals.

According to recent figures by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, in the first eight months of the year a total of 47.2 million international tourists visited Spain, 4.1 percent up over the previous year, and they spent over 46.590 billion euros (52 billion U.S. dollars), 7 percent more than in the same period of 2014.

“Tourism is the main economic activity of our country, is the largest employer,” Estalella told Xinhua about the position of tourism in the Spanish economy, an economy with more than 5 million people unemployed in the second quarter of the year according to Spain’s Statistical Office (INE).

According to a report by the Institute of Economic and Social Analysis, between 2001 and 2013 employment linked to the sector represented an average of 10.9 percent of the total jobs in Spain, or an average of two million people employed.

Between 2001 and 2007, years of economic expansion, more than 500,000 jobs were created within the tourism sector.

During the recession (2008-2013), although about 100,000 jobs were destroyed between 2008 and 2012, the figures were less negative than in other sectors of the economy, and in 2013 the sector started to register positive figures, the report highlights.

An economist from IESE Business School in Barcelona, Juan Roure, confirmed this importance, saying “Not only in Spain, but in general, the tourism sector has a great impact on the economy, directly and indirectly in a number of subsectors,” such as in real estate, hotel industry, catering, travel, airline, buses, etc.
According to German Torres, from the Mesa Turismo (an association that encompasses all sectors of tourism), success is based on providing “a very good product, well diversified and at reasonable prices”.

Torres reiterated: “Tourism has been one of the basic sectors of the economic recovery in Spain.”

However, despite the success and the great resilience of the sector to the crisis, it has not been immune, especially because of the fall in domestic tourism.

“Before the crisis in 2008, roughly 50 percent of the tourists in Spain were Spanish and 50 percent were foreigners. In 2013, 70 percent were foreigners and 30 percent were Spanish and the number of foreigners had not increased that much,” Estalella told Xinhua.

The drop in domestic tourism was particularly noted in areas of Spain where foreigners usually do not go. However, nowadays, the recovery of domestic tourism is a reality.
According to the CEHAT, in the summer (July, August and September) the number of Spaniards who traveled has increased by 5 or 10 percent compared to last year, spending more days and spending more money.

Roure confirmed this trend: “Outbound tourism has recovered, the level we have had this year we had not had in recent years.”
Spain is the third most visited country in the world after the United States and France and is the second country where tourists spend more money. Also, Spain ranked first in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

But, how Spain can manage this success?

Both Estalella and Roure agree on one of the keys: innovation. According to Roure, collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to innovation so that the Spanish tourism industry remains competitive.

There should be also an effort to meet the specific needs of emerging markets, Roure added, and promote Spain among these markets and others like the United States, where Spain is not so widely known.

Estalella highlighted training, renewal and social awareness as well as innovation as key factors to the sector competitiveness.

“The future of Spain is determined by caring for the tourist sector as it is a very strategic sector,” Roura said, assuring “we are a model in the world.”

Travel Gazette Ads