Inflation has not been able to bend the arm of tourism this summer: in its peak season, the sector’s activity has accelerated compared to the end of the second quarter – when tourism GDP was 16.7% above the pre-pandemic level — and has closed the summer with an advance of 17.3% compared to 2019 (2.4% if the effect of inflation is discounted). And the economic slowdown does not seem to be going to break the sector either: “We are seeing a trend towards lengthening the season,” José Luis Zoreda, executive vice president of Exceltur, the association that includes the large companies in the sector, said this Tuesday during the presentation of its sector assessment report.
Tourist demand, the report states, “closes a great September, which is expected to continue throughout the fall.” It is a trend contrary to forecasts for the economy as a whole, which clearly point to a slowdown in GDP in Spain. “The climate is lengthening the season,” Zoreda pointed out. For Óscar Perelli, director of the Studies and Research Area of the sector’s employers’ association, the phenomenon also responds to the priorities of consumers, who are prioritizing “experiences over the consumption of physical products.”
Exceltur has revised the growth of tourism GDP for this year upwards by almost three points, to 183,000 million between direct and indirect activity, 22,000 million more. According to their calculations, tourism will represent around 12% of activity and will contribute 42% of Spanish growth in real terms. Of course, the reality, Zoreda pointed out, “is very asymmetrical: many companies have far overcome the pandemic, but others are lagging behind.”
The “winners” so far this year are, for the executive vice president of Exceltur, the Cantabrian coast and the archipelagos. The employer’s report includes sales growth of more than 25% in the third quarter in the Basque Country, Galicia and Asturias, “less exposed to heat waves.” In the sector there is a consensus that the activity will continue: in another event held this Tuesday in Madrid, Jorge Marichal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations (CEHAT) pointed to a “very good winter”, particularly in the Canary Islands. , which is experiencing its high season.
The other major trend highlighted by sector associations is employment: temporary employment has experienced a considerable drop since the approval of the labor reform, yes, but this is not solely due to the proliferation of discontinuous permanent contracts, typical of seasonal activities. . Perelli has pointed to a “structural change” and has pointed out that before the modification in labor legislation, temporary employment was close to 40%, and now it is close to 10%.
Less influx, more spending
In the presentation, Exceltur representatives have pointed to a change in trend in the model itself: foreign spending has skyrocketed by 13.6% between July and September compared to the same period in 2019 (the reference year as it was the last before the pandemic), while attendance is slightly higher (+1.1%) and hotel overnight stays have not yet recovered. For the employers’ association, the priorities are not about attendance records, but rather about continuing to maintain average spending: “Competing on prices is not our league,” Zoreda stated, referring to competitors such as Turkey.
“A phenomenon is occurring that is desirable: fewer people spending more on shorter stays,” said the executive vice president of Exceltur: “There is beginning to be a preference for more added value,” to the detriment of mass tourism that This summer it has been put in the spotlight in cities like Barcelona. And, at the center of the controversy, the proliferation of tourist apartments, which for Zoreda are “the cancer of the sector.”
Tourist apartments were less attractive than hotels this summer: overnight stays in holiday apartments fell on average by 5% in the months of June, July and August, to 16.6 million, according to data published this Monday by the INE. Meanwhile, hotel activity was close to the pre-pandemic level during the three months, with growth in overnight stays of around 2.3% in the same period, despite the greater increase in hotel prices: 24% accumulated since 2019, the year before the pandemic.
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