Turespaña, most known for being Spain’s tourism promotion agency worldwide, does have other functions. One of these is to publish information related to the tourism sector, such as employment figures. This week, Turespaña reported a 4.4% increase in the sector’s employment in February. There were 2.45 million people in Spain registered with social security for work in tourism. This was the highest number ever for a February. An additional 103,265 people were taken on last month. All regions of the country recorded rises.
In the Balearics, the increase was comparatively modest - 944. Andalusia led the way with just under 17,000. The tourism sector last month represented 12.7% of employment in the whole Spanish economy.
All very encouraging, therefore. But that was February; this is March.
Those who were taken on last month, plus many, many others are now being laid off. When Air Europa and Meliá initiated the process of ERTE, the regulation for temporary layoffs, there were accusations of their having been precipitous and using the crisis to make people redundant. They were in fact acting rather more swiftly than others. Such accusations are now extremely hollow. In Andalusia, where the rise in February employment was clearly in anticipation of a good early season (Easter and all), the regional vice-president and minister for tourism, Juan Marín, has been speaking about the crisis.
If the situation continues for two to three months, he says that there were will be eight million fewer tourists this year. In 2019, there were 32.5 million in all - Andalusia has a particularly high number of domestic tourists by comparison with the Balearics - and so his forecast is for a 25% drop.
But this assumes that there is a righting of the situation in two to three months. In Majorca, the Council hasn’t ventured to put a date on this. For its tourism planning and promotion, a “roadmap” is being established to navigate the island’s tourism over the “coming months”, however many these are.
The Council had planned to go to Berlin at the start of next month in order to carry out promotion. This was because of the cancellation of the ITB fair in Berlin.
I noted last week that this trip seemed pretty pointless. It still would be, but representatives from the Council and certain town halls will now not be able to go anyway. Instead, the Council will be beavering away with its roadmap, fully prepared to go into promotional action once the crisis appears to be fading.
A sum of 1.5 million euros seems somewhat derisory, when one takes account of the colossal amounts being spent in other ways. Whenever the end of the crisis might be, there is the optimism that tourism will bounce back very rapidly. Juan Marín in Andalusia adds that “experience has demonstrated to us that tourism is very resilient and recovers strongly”.
Returning to the Canaries
Tourism promotion campaigns produced by the government’s agency in the Canary Islands regularly receive awards and accolades. The approach in the Canaries is typically innovative, and in confronting the crisis, the government has adopted an optimistic strategy. A video in eleven languages was launched on social networks on Tuesday.
This is most definitely not lavish, unlike other Canaries promotions. It is very short and very sweet. One of the messages says quite simply: “We want to say hello to you again very soon, and enjoy the bright side of life.”
Astonishingly enough, there have still been analyses of Easter tourism. Three days after the state of emergency was declared, Palma-based Travelgate reported that there was a 59% decrease in bookings for Easter, which is taken as starting on the fifth of April, i.e. Palm Sunday. The state of emergency, in theory, is only until 29 March.
This analysis suggested that Easter cancellations for the Balearics had only risen 13% compared with cancellations in February, whereas other regions had suffered much higher cancellation levels. The Canaries were the worst off with a rise of 127%.It’s all rather immaterial. Easter, it seems fair to say, is cancelled.
Barcelona suspends the tourist tax
While hoteliers in the Balearics are wanting the government to suspend the tourist tax, Barcelona has made its own move on this. Not a town hall perceived as being particularly pro-tourism, it has announced either the postponement or suspension of various taxes “in support of the local economy”. These measures include repaying taxes that bars and restaurants have already shelled out for their terraces - the repayment will apply to however long bars and restaurants are closed. As for the tourist tax, it has been suspended until September.
The easyJet winter
Easyjet had been looking forward to a profitable season for the revamped and much enhanced easyJet holidays brand. This is now looking rather less certain. In the meantime, however, the airline has launched a promotion for flights over the winter. Some nine million seats have been offered for flights between October and February. They are on sale for 39.60 euros (one way, including fees and surcharges). While this is a promotion to give customers some alternatives, a further reason is to bring in liquidity. All airlines are going to be faced with this problem, so it may well be that all sorts of offers, like easyJet’s, will be made in an attempt to generate cash while fleets are grounded.