Friday, July 30

Tourists: the new economic ‘hostages’

Another strange summer. With fewer restrictions than the past, but strange. Travel reservations ran as if there was no tomorrow from the moment the traffic light opened to land in Spain at the beginning of the month; hoteliers and restaurateurs rubbed their hands thinking that the spirit of leaving people would allow them to recover in this high season part of what they have lost after 15 months closed or almost; but Boris Johnson arrived and extinguished those hopes. The UK’s decision to turn off the tap on holidays in Spain for its citizens, the country’s first international visitors for 65 years, with 21.5% of the market in 2019, has returned old ghosts to the industry. Because, let’s not fool ourselves, with the Spanish traveler, no matter how much they lengthen their vacations and spend more this year given their desire to spend the summer, the Spanish tourist machine does not even have to start.

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A gibberish, that is what the journey outside national borders and even within has become. The proliferation of restrictions on mobility and socialization is causing travel agency employees to take a master’s degree to learn about the situation of all destinations, said Mercedes Tejero, manager of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV) , in a recent virtual meeting on the covid passport. Something to which the internal reservation departments of the hotel chains are also dedicating themselves. The client looks for information, does not know what to expect before traveling.
The covid green certificate may be the solution as of July 1, when its entry into force in Europe is scheduled. It is too late, said the participants in the forum organized by Círculo Legal Madrid, because most international tourists have already made their vacation reservations, since a large part of them will be back in mid-August. But it can become the long-awaited homologation of sanitary standards in the 27 countries of the European Union and Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. Felipe García, partner of Círculo Legal Madrid, considers that the European passport aims to stimulate tourism, the sector could increase its income between 10% and 15% thanks to it. “If the autonomous communities manage to start it on time, because some, like Extremadura, are very advanced, although others not so much,” he says. The lawyer advises those who obtain the certificate before July 1, since it can currently be requested and is operating in pilot programs, that it will only be valid until August 12. “This instrument has a handbrake. If there is a country where the incidence increases, the rest can impose mandatory quarantines or veto access to citizens who come from territories with dangerous strains, ”explains García. Long-haul trips are much more limited. Mexico, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Maldives and Costa Rica are open to tourism and during this month other destinations outside of Europe will follow in their footsteps, according to Pedro Giménez, of American Airlines. But there is still a lot of uncertainty and it remains to be seen if Spain manages to attract the 15 or 16 million international visitors this summer predicted by the Secretary of State for Tourism.

The vaccine sets the traveling standard

The correlation between the advance of vaccination against covid-19 and the better performance of the tourism market is clear, according to Raúl González, CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa of the Barceló Group. In fact, the external image of countries such as Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States has improved after the efficient management of their vaccination process, highlights José María Cubillo, general director of Mesías.
In the United States, internal mobility is already at pre-school or higher levels, explains Pedro Giménez, of American Airlines. Even Mexico and the Caribbean are benefiting from the great travel demand of the Americans. In fact, the number of Meliá tourists in this second destination in the last month is above 2019. For Barceló, the United States is currently the largest market with the best performance and with considerable mobility, something that is noticeable in its hotels in the Caribbean and Central America. “The American is traveling. Not the Canadian, ”says Raúl González. China and Dubai are other markets where Barceló finds an occupation similar to that of two years ago. In the Asian country it even detects a rise in rates thanks to the pull of the internal tourist that in the emirate has not yet occurred. However, “Europe has the worst performance in the world. It is being a failure as a whole. With the constant and widespread change in safety regulations. Without clear rules of the game and poor government management. Now we have placed our hope in the covid certificates ”, González says, which sets air connectivity in the continent at just one third of that of 2019. The low number of planes is holding the sector back, since about 80% of international tourists they travel through this route at least to Spain, the first European holiday destination, which suffers from it especially. And not only that, “it shows that competing countries like Greece and Turkey have made the decisions before us. Being late to the international market will have an impact on us ”, warns Mercedes Tejero, from the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV). Opinion shared by the representative of American Airlines: “In Spain the delay in doing so will mean that we do not have a powerful market. A missed opportunity ”. Because, for example, American travelers who spend the summer in Europe will be concentrated in a single country, and Greece and Turkey have taken the lead, he adds. In fact, the head of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer, admits that Greece has gained market share to the detriment of Spain. The fact that his Minister of Tourism led the action in the EU to save the sector has been rewarded.

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