Tourism returns to its best moment in the midst of the crisis. After the parenthesis caused by the pandemic, and in the midst of a storm of inflation, lack of personnel and skyrocketing costs, Spanish beaches are once again filled as they were before Covid. Summer is the turning point between what we leave behind and what may come. A soaring demand in the most popular destinations is expected to reach the levels of 2019, which was already considered a record year for tourist arrivals. Full hotels and planes, beaches where there is no room for an umbrella and restaurants where you have to reserve weeks, or even months, in advance. Everything will be more expensive, the strikes will return to the airports and, in addition, we will have a new problem: the shortage of personnel. This is the panorama of summer 2022.

“This summer, very strong volumes of bookings are expected in all the main tourist destinations, including Spain. In fact, already in Holy Week a very significant rebound was noted (there were 680% more tourist arrivals compared to the previous year)”, summarizes Javier Caballero, partner at McKinsey

There are several elements that influence this rapid recovery. The desire to compensate for vacations postponed by the pandemic, the interest in leaving the country after these two years with restrictions and “the fact that a large number of reserves are from before the war broke out and inflation skyrocketed,” explains the expert, who remembers that emotionally it is the first real summer back to normality.

After two years of growth in domestic tourism, this year international tourism is expected to grow much more (both short and medium haul, as well as long haul), “far exceeding the domestic flow.”

European airlines have 44.4 million seats reserved for this summer, 10.6% more than in 2019. BTN Europe already reports that the sector is at 90% of the volume then and expects full recovery by the middle of the year. summer. The air sector pointed out that it would be around 2024. Only in May Spain already received 7.7 million international passengers, which means recovering almost 90% of those who had arrived in the same month of 2019.

“At the level of tourist demand, we are confirming very positive figures for the summer. Globally we are very close to the volume of reservations for 2019 and in terms of billing, many Spanish tourist areas are going to exceed the income we had the summer before Covid,” explains Carlos Abella, general secretary of the Spanish Tourism Board.

Hoteliers share this optimism for the high season. “We have a very powerful national demand and also international demand, especially in Europe, including the United Kingdom. Although it is true that long-distance countries, such as the US, have not yet fully recovered, ”says Jorge Marichal, president of Cehat, the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation.

Strong demand is expected in places where it was in the years before the pandemic. Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Andalusia, Levante and the Costa Brava. Also from the British, traditionally our main issuing market, they will return. “Despite Brexit, their predilection for enjoying holidays in Spain has not been altered,” says Carlos Abella.

Despite the rise in prices, this summer we will see a phenomenon, that of «revenge spending», which is when consumers make more impulsive purchases after a period of deprivation of consumption or when there has been some unusual event, like pandemic or war. From Mckinsey they observe this “revenge spending in different subsectors”, and four out of 10 Spanish consumers plan to indulge in these extra treats.

At this start of the high season there are two clouds that can cloud this first post-pandemic summer, and that could become “chronified” and complicate that recovery that is already touching with the fingers: one is the rise in costs and inflation, but above all, the “Problem of deficit of workers in the sector, which is very serious,” says Caballero.

McKinsey estimates that there is a deficit of workers of between 10% and 20% in the main tourist countries (in the case of Spain it is 9%). In addition, according to the consultancy, 40% of current employees in the sector are considering changing jobs, even without having anything else. This lack of personnel is already collapsing some airports in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. To this is added the rebellion of the employees who demand better conditions in some airlines, such as Ryanair or Easyjet, which in the middle of the high season have already called several strikes.

“Digitization is affecting many aspects of the business, and employees with skills and training in this area are going to be required. In addition, the pandemic has triggered a strong demand for remote (or hybrid) jobs, and employees expect greater flexibility,” says Caballero, who believes that the tourism sector “is having problems in the recovery to re-attract lost talent” .

This “will be a bittersweet summer because although reserves are good and all employment is recovering, we are witnessing an escalation in costs that implies rises of between 20 and 30%. For this reason, although we are facing a much better summer, which will be close to that of 2019 in demand, we are suffering a lot in operating costs because it affects all the goods and services we consume,” says Marichal, from Cehat.

The Tourism Board recalls that many companies are going to increase their turnover but “they are going to do so because prices have become more expensive and this improvement in turnover will not be reflected in terms of profitability because the tourism sector is working with much higher costs (energy, raw materials, etc.)».

He also points out that “a certain uncertainty is being appreciated because we have begun to perceive in recent days that tourists will be slightly shortening their stay in our country to keep the vacation budget under control. The prices of holidays have risen, the cost of living has also increased for all European citizens and, consequently, the way to control spending on holidays is to reduce the stay one day. This trend is particularly noticeable in the case of the German market”, says Abella.

Caballero believes that if the difference in inflation with other destinations persists, Spain could begin to see tourists “preferring cheaper alternative destinations”, such as Turkey, Greece or Egypt, or also shortening their stay in Spain or staying in cheaper accommodation. “The hotel negotiations begin now for the 2023 season, so we are at a critical moment to see how much extra cost will be considered reasonable for next year, which can mark the path of how Spain will position itself against other destinations,” he remarks.

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