How Covid-19 impacted Spanish Tourism

I work for a Spanish Company so my concern, since months, is to understand how Covid-19 impacted the Tourism Industry. Not only in Spain, I would rather say worldwide as we are in the same situation all over the world. In this post I am focusing on the Spanish Market but other analysis about Italy and Albania will follow. Who made an action plan for 2021 has surely struggled, like me, to figure out what to expect from the next year!


Tourism closes its worst year ever in Spain, with a revenue crash greater than 75%. The public deficit multiplies by 5 and reaches 7.14% in October.

Undoubtedly, the major victims of the closure of the borders are the airlines. The hotel sector closely follows this sad destiny. In 2019 more than 19 million British tourists visited Spain and spent almost 18 million euros. This year Spain lost roughly the 80% of their presence. Globally, the drop in overnight stays was 76% for the domestic market and 91% for the abroad one. 98.3% of the trips had as main destination the national territory, with a decrease of 80.5% compared to the second quarter of last year. Trips abroad, which represent 1.7% of the total, decreased by 96.8%.

The collapse of foreign tourism reduces the bellows to the rebound of GDP in the summer. Falling numbers that casted the whole country to an unprecedented situation, only comparable to the cyphers of the 70’s. Trade and Tourism ask for an economic help 11 times higher than the government agreed to deliver.

300,000 businesses may definitely close.

75,000 the stores that have already closed for good.

Hoteliers warn of the risk of disappearance of a large part of the industry. The trend of reservations in Spain has been the following, so far:

  • March -66,5%
  • April -100%
  • May 99,2%
  • June -95,1%
  • July -73,4%
  • August -64,3%
  • September -78,4%
  • October -83,3%
  • November -72,5%
  • December -65,8%

How Covid-19 impacted Spanish Tourism


Since years Barcelona is the first choice for more than 19 millions tourists visiting Spain. By the way, as predictable, it registered a massive loss in revenue this year. According to different sources we go from -82% up to -95%. Mrs. Colau, the mayor of the city, contributed to worsening this situation. She launched a crusade against tourism. Since the very beginning of her tenure she has slowed down the construction of hotels and tourist arrivals. It culminates in the midst of a pandemic with a new tax, a municipal surcharge to the tourist tax. It will begin to be collected from June 2021. Despite this and other restrictive measures, big chains such as Four Seasons, Hyatt, Melià keep their expansion plans. Airbnb is still struggling due to a large number of ads advertising illegal accommodations. Today only 25% of hotels are opened (on 440) but it is already something.

an impressive image of the empty Rambla

an impressive image of the empty Rambla


Costa Brava as well is facing a major crisis due to the high amount of seasonal employees of the zone. The towns with the highest increase in food baskets are Roses (53%), Palafrugell (67%) and Lloret (77%). During the summertime the 70% of hotels opened with an average occupancy rate of 50%. Normally, Lloret del Mar is the second Catalan tourist destination after Barcelona, with its 1.400.000 tourists per year. This year, it became the first one, despite the third of its normal occupancy.


Costa Daurada registered a -75% in reservations with an unemployment rate of 20% with 6 points above the Catalan average. The demand for food baskets rises up to 40% in Tarragona.


In the Canary Islands the 13 millions tourists of last year seem a nice souvenir, compared to the 3,4 of this year. The hospitality industry in the island is working hard and is struggling to obtain, at least, 8 millions for the next year. Despite the situation they have registered the highest occupancy rates for Spain.


Disaster in the Balearic islands as well, where the 63% of night establishments are at risk.


Costa del Sol passed from the 26 Millions of reservations of last year to the 7 millions of 2020.

Nowadays it is more important than ever to have solid internal tourism. The Spanish have bet this year on domestic tourism, with Catalonia being the favorite destination, followed by Andalusia, the Valencian Community, the Basque Country and the Balearic Islands. Here below follow the forecasts of the experts.


Travel agencies warn of the possible closure of 3,000 stores and the loss of 28,000 jobs. 30.9% of the agencies have not been able to keep all the employees they had before the health emergency. 23% of them still maintain them but foresees that soon they will have to make layoffs.



7 out of 10 national travel agents consider that the reactivation of tourist activity will begin when most of the population is vaccinated. Most of them believe this will not happen until next summer. 84% of those consulted also think that it will be a very slow recovery. Despite the huge stroke to the agencies, the forecasts say that professional advice, security, guarantees and ability to customize travels will be more important than ever in the next future.


The 70% of the interviewed Spanish travel agents stated that the trips will be “just a little different” with regards to the past. This data is completely in contrast with what stated by Forbes and Condé Nast in these last days. I am more inlcined to agree with the Spanish but time will tell us who was right. The trend for the travels in the future will choose more responsible travels with the environment. There is a very peculiar element in this survey, the increasing need for information about travels and destinations.


As per these experts the most important group of travelers in the early stages will be made up of people between the ages of 35 and 50. years old. They will travel as a family and as a couple. In Spanish press I haven’t found any mention of millenials. On this point I rather agree with the International press that points  at them as the leading force for tourism.


The average duration of trips increased by 30.5% in 2020. The estimate of bookings of 5-7 nights but the new trend is surely to book for longer periods in apartments in the countryside or in high standards hotels in the cities.

means of transport

90.0% of trips were made by vehicle and air transport was used in 2.1% of the cases. Despite the offers of Ryanair and other flying companies the fear of contagion is still high.   This is how Covid-19 impacted Spanish Tourism and forecasts for 2021. More posts about this subject will follow. Stay tuned!


Sources: INE, ObservaTur, Cinco Días, El País, Expansión, La Vanguardia, Invertia, Ok Diario, El Español.

14 thoughts on “How Covid-19 impacted Spanish Tourism

  1. It is indeed disturbing how world wide this pandemic is and how it has affected people everywhere. Yet many in my country still argue that it is a plot to destroy businesses and the economy. They do not believe it is a real illness. I have been staying off of social media due to all the narrow minded arguments. I truly appreciate you sharing this information. Hoping (and praying) the vaccines will help slow down the rate of contagion, but it is still a long slow process.

    1. My dear Shauna, I totally agree with you, it will take time and it will leave traces. I am also taking a pause from social media, I am disgusted from what I read and people who deny the evidence. It’s disturbing and disrespectful but I am glad to read you. Stay safe, take a deep breath and lets look ahead. Have a nice 2021 🙂

  2. And don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of people like me who like to walk a camino in Spain! We have all had to postpone our dreams for a couple of years, but hopefully we will all be back in 2022. Hopefully the many, many small businesses and albergues who support the camino can survive until then. It is so hard for everyone in business. Thanks, Mel

    1. Yep, I totally understand, it’s been devastating and unexpected but I think that we all can take a lesson from what occurred. We were always on the run, we have been forced to face our demons, fears, face death and important losses. After a similar event the world can not come back to the origins and be the same. It changed for the 11th September, I don’t expect it will be the same after a global pandemic. I would like to do the camino as well so who knows, maybe one day, we will cross there and we will smile thinking back to the period where we were forced to stay home and reflect. But I like to think that also this stillness will benefit to all of us. Have a nice 2021!

  3. Interesting post. I think that the tourist industry is going to take a long time to recover, even with vaccinations. There is worry that the vaccines might not prevent spread (people “carrying” the virus and still passing it on), and borders won’t open until there’s some guarantee around that. My home is in an area that benefits greatly from tourism, so I understand the concerns.

    1. Hi Lynette, yes, the operators are divided in 2 groups, the optimistic and the realistic! I belong to the second group… it will take time and the economic crisis that is spreading together with the virus is not helping. A faint recovery is possible but the full recovery will take at least a couple of years, imho.

  4. It is a disaster. Just about everywhere. And I don’t really see politicians anywhere taking the right measures. They have no plan, no vision. What a mess.
    Long time no hear. Fa molto tempo. Tutto bene con te? 🙏🏻

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