WHERE WE START FROM

All of us who are involved in tourism are asking ourselves these days what importance tourism has for the government when it declares that it will be among the last to be reactivated and therefore out of the current focus in the short and medium term.

An industry that accounts for 12.5% of Spanish GDP, which provides work for almost 3 million people in our country, accounting for 15% of total direct and indirect employment, which has been the economic engine growing above GDP every year, and which, despite the slow recovery of other sectors, saved us from the lethargy and ostracism of the 2008 crisis, annually exceeding the number of foreign tourists and their spending, breaking records year after year.

It seems that the crisis cabinet must not care much about losing the approximately 125,000 million euros that Exceltur estimates, nor the almost two million jobs that could be lost, and that in some of the main autonomous communities that receive tourists, such as the Balearic and Canary Islands, where tourism represents 35% of their economies, could lead to total disaster.

Thierry Breton, the EU's Internal Market Commissioner, warns in his speech to the European Parliament that the importance of tourism to Europe is critical as it accounts for 50% of the world's international tourist arrivals, and calls for "a Marshall Plan" to boost the sector's recovery.

 

THE SCALE OF THE PROBLEM IN THE TOURISM SECTOR

The reality is that we find ourselves within an unprecedented and unexplored health and subsequently economic crisis never seen before and hardly predictable therefore, due to a pandemic with major global effects that will probably result in the largest drop in Spanish GDP estimated at between 8% and 10% this year, which could exceed the 20% drop in catering and 30% in tourism, and which could again raise the unemployment rate to levels above 20%, going back to reversing the advances that had occurred in the period 2012-2019.

There is no doubt that the evolution of the slow and gradual de-escalation plan, already marked but still unpredictable, and above all the definition of the protocols to be followed - hopefully aligned at least with the countries around us in the EU - to keep COVID-19 at bay and not fall into an expected resurgence in autumn according to the WHO, will mark the tourism industry in the future.

For Spain, given the weight of our sector in GDP, the influence of the coronavirus is of particular relevance in order to assess the impact of health events and their statistics on the "Spain brand" and their subsequent consequences.

These consequences will vary depending on the security measures implemented both in Spain and in the main countries of origin of tourists to our country - one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus - in the face of a new situation of uncertainty regarding health and its effect on tourism, understood as a mass phenomenon until the long-awaited vaccine arrives.

To this end, the administrations, in coordination and not each one on its own, must make clear once and for all the health protocols to be followed so that tourism companies - with public aid, of course, to help them guarantee their liquidity - can adapt to the structural and/or cyclical changes caused by this situation.

NATIONAL TOURISM FIRST

From BRAINTRUST, thanks to our exhaustive analysis of the data and with a view to the near future, we are sure that, given the current situation, the first objective must be the gradual recovery of domestic tourism from July at best, which will require by the destinations through the City Councils and Autonomous Communities, appropriate strategies for the return of tourism to their cities, taking into account the following conclusions and their short-term effects: The first objective must be the gradual recovery of domestic tourism from the month of July at best, which will require by the destinations through the City Councils and Autonomous Communities, appropriate strategies for the return of tourism to their cities. This will require appropriate strategies on the part of the destinations, through the Town Councils and Autonomous Regions, to bring tourism back to their cities, taking into account the following conclusions of the stage we are living through and its effects in the short term:

The destinations chosen will be of proximity, knowing that the protocols to be followed will be strict and that the mentality of human beings after confinement will seek to get out of their environment but with caution, choosing nearby, open and uncrowded places.

In this sense, both the Spanish coasts (the destination par excellence for Spaniards), as well as inland and rural tourism will undoubtedly be the stars this year, with flows of travellers between nearby communities.

According to our BRAINTRUST Tourism Barometer, the ranking declared by Spanish travellers would look something like this:

Andalusia: 21%, Galicia: 11%, Madrid: 10%, Castile and Leon: 10%, Catalonia: 10%, Valencia: 10%, Asturias: 9%.

The transport par excellence will be the private car, which today already accounts for almost 80% of Spanish tourists' journeys and is expected to reach 95% this year, in order to guarantee social distancing at the expense of measures taken by airlines and rail and/or road transport companies in the future, as yet unannounced.

With the deconfinement guidelines in hand and their asymmetrical approach by autonomous communities and/or municipalities between May and June, it is acceptable that young people go out first to lead normal lives and older people go out last, waiting for safer times.

If the over-55s account for 25% of all Spanish travellers, it is predictable that this group will not be a target audience for this year, with a greater fear of contagion and its subsequent consequences.

On the other hand, although those who will first lose their fear of travelling among travellers will be those between 26 and 55 years of age, who represent 61% of the total, the real target public will be those between 26 and 35 years of age with a 15% representation, most of them without children, who will foreseeably be the "early adopters" of deconfinement, and ready to travel at the drop of a hat.

In terms of timing, summer might not be this year's typical summer season for a country like ours in Southern Europe, due to the asymmetric deconfinement expected between May, June and maybe July depending on events and statistics, the decision on exams in schools and universities, and the progressive recovery of jobs that might see holiday dates cancelled after massive retrenchments in most companies.

At BRAINTRUST we estimate that the impact of reduced spending by domestic travellers could exceed 47% of the 32.014 million euros that Spaniards spent in 2019 on tourism within our own borders, if we take into account that Easter has been quarantined with millionaire losses and the summer is in danger given the dates we are in, with many hotels thinking whether to open, and travellers without short-term plans, encouraged by the European Commission that recommends not to book summer holidays, and with family economies touched due to the paralysis of the economy during the peak period of COVID 19.

 

THE TRIPS THAT ARE FORESEEN

With the available data, we calculate the ratio of (national) trips by locals, which will largely be the most likely because of their greater proximity, with locals being understood as trips whose travellers are inhabitants of the Autonomous Community itself, and which draws an analysis map as follows:

STRATEGIES TO BE FOLLOWED FOR THE REACTIVATION OF NATIONAL TOURISM

It seems clear that in view of the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on the flow of regular travellers, the Autonomous Communities and City Councils must create an intelligent strategy with those Autonomous Communities of origin that represent the top 3, with the following lines of action suggested in our customer projects:

  1. Ensure that its hotel, extra-hotel, restaurant and retail offer follows the protocols that will probably be established through the ICTE, and provide a "COVID free" seal to its establishments, promoting open spaces, diversifying its points of interest and avoiding crowds, while guaranteeing adequate sanitary capacity, the availability of sufficient testing and other measures of maximum hygiene and the necessary distance.
  2. Align with the appropriate infrastructures - AENA and the air and sea lines in the case of the Balearic and Canary Islands, and motorways and roads in the rest - the corresponding viability of easy access for travellers from other autonomous regions, eliminating the potential rejection seen these past weeks towards the inhabitants of some autonomous regions, even promoting their arrival through specially designed welcome packages.
  3. Support at local level the liquidity of their tourism businesses - with public aid of course - in the face of the collapse experienced after the hibernation of local economies and encourage public-private collaboration, a fundamental aspect if we want to get out of the crisis.
  4. Analyse the pre-COVID and post-COVID attributes and try to combine them in the best possible way, precisely defining the right message for this first era of de-escalation according to the target audience, in your campaigns and communications.
  5. Concentrate its promotional efforts as a matter of priority on the regions of origin of its travellers, and subsequently on neighbouring regions, taking into account the socio-demographic variables of interest already mentioned in this note, such as age, and, although still impossible to certify, those groups with a potential health passport of immunity or freedom from coronavirus.
  6. Improve the "Traveller Experience" through technology that supports the necessary protocols, a fundamental aspect being to protect the security of the traveller.

 

WELCOME MISTER TOURIST

The tourism phobia that was created in certain places in the face of the arrival of tourists is not far behind, and could now be repeated, but it would be a serious mistake for those destinations that do not protect the arrival of travellers, if they do not want to see their already battered local economies agonise.

As the slogans we have seen these days say, "we can stop this virus together", and from here we enunciate another one , "we can save this economy together".

More than ever the different public and private actors must sit at the table to discuss, design, align and implement the appropriate measures, building strategies and action plans, which from BRAINTRUST we are used to define with autonomous communities and municipalities, if we want the "goose that lays the golden eggs" of tourism to stay alive.

Although in the first weeks of the coronavirus crisis we have seen certain hostile attitudes towards the arrival of people from Madrid or Catalonia or from some other autonomous communities to towns and cities receiving tourists, town councils must now issue their own procedures in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, although encouraging their inhabitants to welcome travellers arriving from other communities without fear, as they have always done, in order to alleviate the next crisis that follows the health crisis, the economic and social crisis. It will therefore be necessary for local councils to analyse which are the main communities of origin of travellers, as shown in the following map.

Therefore, the slogan "Welcome Mr. Tourist" should be made good.

From BRAINTRUST, as specialised consultants we are at the disposal of the companies and institutions that need our help, we will be delighted to help them in this new post-COVID 2019 stage that will change borders, values, way of doing things and above all the way of travelling as the one experienced in 2001.

Transport safety has now become a part of our travel routine, and so it will be with health safety for the good of all.

It is time to build a different sector based on the sustainability that these times have made us coin more strongly than ever, and on the digitalisation that this confinement has helped us to accelerate.

It is time for solidarity, yes, but it is also time for strategists to sharpen our wits to once again adapt our industry to a new era, and to recover the prestige of the "Spain brand" in order to once again welcome travellers from all over the world, leaving mass tourism behind and opting for quality tourism.

Travellers yes, but those who follow health regulations, those who respect our tourist wealth, and those who spend in our country, of course.