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Foreign tourist arrivals in Spain hit a new low in the first half of 2021 | Economy and business

Workers set up an information board on Alcúdia beach in Mallorca on May 12.CATI CLADERA / EFE

The first six months of the year marked a new low for the Spanish tourism sector, which is still struggling to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Between January and June, there were 5.4 million international visitors to the country, according to figures released Tuesday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). This is about half as much as during the same period in 2020, when there were 10.7 million foreign arrivals (the vast majority of which were concentrated in the months of January and February, before the (Spain does declare the state of alert in mid-March and that tourism has been reduced to zero).

This year’s figure is also light years away from the 38.1 million international visitors who came in the first half of 2019, which was a record year for tourism in Spain with 83.7 million arrivals in a country of 47 , 4 million inhabitants. In June 2019 alone, there were 8.8 million visitors, more than the number that arrived during the entire first half of 2021.

In fact, this is the worst six months since INE and the public institution Turespaña started keeping monthly registers in 2000. As for tourist spending, the decline is similar: between January and June, visitors foreigners spent € 5.8 billion, half of last year and 85% less than in the same period in 2019.

The only positive data relates to overnight stays, which amounted to 51.7 million if both foreign and domestic tourists are included. This is almost 74% less than in 2019, but only 14% less than last year. This is in part because hotels were closed between March and June of last year under Spain’s state of alarm. Additionally, mobility between Spanish regions was severely restricted in the first half of this year as regional governments attempted to contain transmission. Meanwhile, international arrivals have been kept to a minimum, often due to travel restrictions imposed by the countries of origin.

Absence of British tourists

Statistics show that there were 1.2 million visitors from France and 1.2 million from Germany in the first half of the year, while there were only 273,333 from the UK due to the ban on traveling on vacation until May. Travel restrictions eased in the European Union in early summer, although in the case of the United Kingdom, it was not until mid-July that fully vaccinated residents were allowed to go. go to Spain without needing to isolate themselves on their return.

Since mid-March 2020, when the coronavirus crisis started to gain momentum, the Spanish tourism industry has survived in part thanks to public support in the form of the ERTE job retention program and loans guaranteed by the Spanish Official Credit Institute (ICO). Business leaders are still eagerly awaiting the direct aid promised in March but which has yet to materialize.

Spain is currently facing a fifth wave of the coronavirus, although its vaccination rate is among the highest in the world and transmission is mainly limited to unvaccinated young people whose chances of developing severe symptoms are low.

But the industry is concerned that Spain’s high infection rates could lead to increased travel restrictions in key source markets, including Germany, France and the UK, where an update from his travel list is due Thursday.

english version by Susana Urra.