Tourism caresses a record summer: reservations already exceed those of 2019

The exterior part of the arrivals terminal at Palma airport is one of the best places to test the progress of the season. Any given morning this June is packed. Shortly after leaving the building, a 67-year-old retired couple from Manchester heads to the taxi rank with their suitcases. They have come to Mallorca to spend 14 days in the Cala Bona area and they say that this is the twenty-second time they have come to the island on holiday since they got married. “We love spending the holidays here,” he says. Next to them, a group of young girls, heavily made up and dressed in brightly colored clothes, laugh explaining that they have come to spend a week in Magaluf “to go to the beach and party a bit”.

Not only in the Balearic Islands is there a holiday atmosphere. In the Valencian Community, Andalusia, Catalonia… a good summer is already beginning to breathe which, according to some indicators, may exceed the levels of 2019, the last summer season prior to the pandemic and the year in which the record was broken of international tourists (84 million). Not even the queues of passengers that are seen these days in several European airports (due to the lack of personnel and the greater controls after Brexit) are discouraging, at least for now, the strong desire to travel after two years marked by restrictions.

platforms on-line, hotels and associations assure that between June and August they expect to exceed the reservations that were registered before the covid crisis, or if not at least, be very close to achieving it. The growing recovery of the sector this summer is a positive element for the Spanish economy at a time when international organizations and the Bank of Spain are lowering their growth forecasts for this year due to record inflation, while the imminent rate hikes are translate into more expensive mortgages for thousands of citizens.

Most indicators point to a strong rebound in travel demand. According to the firm TravelgateX, reservations for June-August are already 7.7% higher than those at this point in the year in 2019, due to the push of Spanish tourism, but, above all, due to the reborn pull of international tourism. The agency on-line Destinia calculates that reservations are 1% higher and that the most popular places are Mallorca, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Tarragona, Alicante, Málaga, Barcelona, ​​Almería, Menorca and Ibiza. “The figures suggest that it is going to be a great summer, but there are still many weeks to go and there are several external factors that could affect it, so we have to be careful,” says Destinia’s CEO, Ricardo Fernández. Amadeus has also confirmed that “travellers’ confidence and appetite to travel continue to strengthen” and the TUI group expects to reach 2019 bookings.

The positive forecasts are repeated, although always with caution, among hotel chains such as Meliá, Riu and NH Hotels, which have already assured that they expect to reach levels similar to those of the last pre-pandemic year. “Our forecasts in Spain for the summer season are very favourable”, they explain at Riu. “We hope to match and in some cases exceed the occupancy levels of the summer of 2019,” they add. In Paradores, they forecast an occupancy level for July-September that is 8% higher than three years ago. Sources from the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) still find it difficult to know if the levels of 2019 will be recovered, but that for the year as a whole the sector will be sure to exceed the 68 million visitors of 2015.

Until April, Spain had already recovered 85% of international tourists and total spending was close to the pre-pandemic level. The Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, spoke this week of a “very intense” recovery, which she hopes will continue in the summer, when pre-Covid levels of spending and tourists could be reached, although, to achieve it throughout the year , we will have to wait for 2023.

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Keep in mind that there are always cancellations of reservations (TravelgateX calculates a fee of 24%, slightly above the 22% of 2019). But even the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, the air sector, is optimistic: the companies have set a schedule for the summer with an offer of seats similar to that of the summer of 2019, with 212 million seats (only 0.4% less), according to data from the Airline Association. Although in 2021 there was a clear recovery in tourism, this was far from being a summer like the ones before the pandemic, because restrictions on international travel still weighed.

“Right now everything is full. We have German and Nordic clients who book well in advance, mainly families”, explains Joan Serra, CEO of Homerti, manager and marketer of holiday villas with 2,000 properties throughout Spain. Their reserve levels are the same as in 2019 because there is no room for improvement. Virtually everything is sold out for the months of July and August. In Mallorca, Malaga and the Costa Blanca there is very little supply available.

Savings and ‘champagne effect’

Not only is demand already high, but travelers have saved significant sums in the last two years. A study by the International Monetary Fund indicates that, in the euro zone alone, consumers have saved more than a trillion euros above their normal savings rate, and it is assumed that much of this sum will be spent on travel. “At the beginning of the post-pandemic there was a diversion of demand towards goods, and we had problems in the supply chain, and now services are the beneficiaries,” explains Raymond Torres, director of the situation at Funcas. The economist warns that inflation will have an effect on consumption decisions, but that there is a desire to travel and that Spain, moreover, is seen as a safe destination at a time when there is a war in Eastern Europe. He shares the optimistic view for this summer: “The season will be so good that it can compensate for other problems in the Spanish economy, but what will happen when autumn arrives?”

There is a significant psychological component. In the sector there is talk of champagne effect, that is, intense desire to travel to enjoy the holidays, a very common feeling these days after the successive waves of covid. A survey carried out by the Travelzoo offers website in Spain indicates that, if in 2021 up to 45% said they had doubts about traveling, now 98% are sure that they will do so this summer. And that, despite the fact that the economic situation is worrying. Above all because of inflation, which has led 40% to choose cheaper destinations and 26% to reduce the duration of their vacations. Inflation not only erodes purchasing power, it translates into higher hotel and restaurant prices. According to Destinia, for the summer months there are increases per person and night on trips of 14% compared to 2019: from 47 euros to 54 euros.

Great recovery in the Balearic Islands

One of the strongest destinations is going to be the Balearic Islands, which has recovered the tourist pulse lost during the pandemic. According to the Minister of Tourism, Labor and the Economic Model, Iago Negueruela, the forecast is that throughout 2022 “all the GDP lost during the years of the pandemic will be recovered” and growth of 20% will be reached during the second quarter. of the year. “All sectors have grown, including the non-tourist economy,” he says. In the hotel sector they are satisfied with the evolution of reservations.

At VIVA Hotels, which manages seven establishments on the island of Mallorca, they are about to reach the numbers for 2019, according to Guillem Mercadal, commercial director. “Reservations are between 3% and 4% below those registered in the same period of 2019. Although the occupation is somewhat below, the income is a little above”, he underlines. Globally, rates have risen by around 3%, but he insists that the costs that have been passed on to them due to the high prices “has been much higher.” However, they have noticed changes in the behavior of tourists, who this year have not booked as far in advance as in previous summers, something that they attribute, above all, to the pandemic.

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