Since I came out of confinement on 21 June, and after observing how the planet entered a new crisis, this time firstly health, then economic and then social, in my role as a consultant specialising in the transformation of tourism companies, I have been analysing and reading the figures, firstly at a global and macroeconomic level and then focusing on the tourism sector and specifically on Spain, to which I have dedicated a large part of my professional career.

As data analysis per se never leaves me calm, I set out to check the reality by calling and talking to the front line, to the people in the sector, to hoteliers, travel agents, airlines, mobility companies, tour operators, cruise operators, tourist offices, all of them clients as well as colleagues in the sector, and I am pleased to see that after the initial state of shock came hope, which in the summer has turned into extraordinary resilience, all of them ready to survive this pandemic.

 

I do detect a certain pessimism, but at the same time great enthusiasm, courage, drive and attitude to withstand this new challenge in 2020 and approach 2021 with better prospects, once the vaccine is found, applied accordingly and all the mobility restrictions that the different governments (with little coordination, by the way) have implemented since the beginning of this fateful year are released.

In this opinion article, and with a consultant's perspective, I will try to relate the figures to the reality of people, families, companies and businesses, because, among other things, that is why our clients pay us, to put data at the service of the business.

Rigorously analysing these data is one of our priorities in all our projects, and it is with this premise that I will write a series of opinion articles, an adventure that I begin with this first article.

 

In an average scenario, neither optimistic nor pessimistic, the foreseeable fall in annual GDP in Spain would already be around 13% (with post-summer resurgences soaring, and awaiting the return to schools, colleges and universities, and the return to face-to-face work of those who cannot telework), real unemployment (including lasting ERTE's) that is on its way to 20%, and public debt at a maximum of 115%.

Business start-ups are down 56%, overnight stays are down 75%, foreign tourist spending is down 73%, hotel occupancy is down more than 60% and household consumption is down 26%, with most of our young people unemployed and with a business model based on tourism accounting for up to 12% of GDP and 15% of employment.

Seen in this light, the outlook seems bleak. But as in all crises, we will emerge stronger and, as in every crisis, new opportunities will be created.

 

With all these data from BRAINTRUST, through our econometric models, we foresee a very important contraction of the industry in 2020, with a reduction of 60-70% of activity in the holiday issuer segment, an unprecedented fall of 50-60% also in the business issuer, and 80-90% in the MICE .

As far as inbound tourism is concerned, and taking into account the current restrictions in the different countries, we estimate a drop of 60 million foreign tourists , which is equivalent to a historical decrease of 72% after many record-breaking years.

But these figures can only improve after a fateful year, and this is the hope for the future, the ambition of the entire tourism industry in our country.

 

Let us be aware, however, that at this time of still sanitary crisis, the effects of the economic crisis that is to come after the summer are already beginning to be recognised, and which will reveal even more the economic importance of the tourism sector for the population as a whole, where some more inland and rural regions have benefited and other more traditional sun and beach regions have been badly affected.

In the Balearic and Canary Islands, tourism accounts for almost 35% of GDP, reaching 50% in high season, but also in other areas of empty Spain, tourism helps to rebuild the coffers and provides work for many families, as well as alleviating the debacle of the most affected economies, with a collateral employment effect for entire families of artisans, farmers, traders, hoteliers, industrialists and other activities in the primary and secondary sectors that will not receive resources if tourism is not the only way to save them.

 

For this reason, saving tourism means avoiding the next crisis, so politicians, far from criticising and denigrating our industry, must undertake an immediate, lasting and sustainable recovery plan.

Our model of country must be transformed, yes, it is high time, as we have promised Europe, but that takes years, which, on the other hand, we have been wasting in years of prosperity, and that never comes because probably no politician dares to do so, given his or her self-interested search for short-term votes.

Or perhaps it is that we do not have statesmen who will lead us to become a more advanced and innovative country.

 

And although we would like to change our country's profile, we are not yet in a position to waste a sector that represents Spain's natural wealth, its history, its climate, its culture, its traditions, its heritage, its gastronomy, its people. To dismiss tourism would be to deny our identity and would definitively endanger our already battered economy.

Let our magnificent representatives of each sub-sector do their job, defending our interests, and our full thanks and recognition go to those who are struggling these days with the public institutions to keep the sector afloat.

The first and foremost priority is to ensure the livelihood of businesses, the second to transform the tourism model towards a concept of quality and sustainability.

 

Realistically, however, pre-COVID levels will not be reached until 2023 at the earliest, but the joy in tourism spending will return.

Our models predict a recovery in 2021 of between 50% and 60% in the holiday area if the good news about the vaccine continues, a recovery of national and European traffic in the business market to 65%-70% of 2019 levels, and a MICE sector that needs to be strongly supported to recover its activity as soon as possible.

 

Until the good times come back and as a coach, I always try to ask questions based on the future, and WHAT IS IN OUR HAND TO DO because this COVID 19 crisis will also generate opportunities that only the most experienced will know how to take advantage of.

Once the vaccine arrives, we will be able to travel again, we will have overcome a temporary effect, the fear of contagion and the collapse of mobility, but there will remain another more important and structural one, the economic crisis that will affect many families on both sides of the globe.

 

Our BRAINTRUST Tourism Barometer shows a positive outlook for 2021 with a remarkable rebound in travel, but the road ahead will not be without challenges.

We cannot stand idly by, these are times to think about how to improve our companies, how to identify the new travellers, how to satisfy their new needs, how to increase our income, how to digitalise our industry, how to train our staff for the new challenges, in short, how to lead in these new times.

It is our responsibility to prepare ourselves for the challenges that will come after the pandemic; it will be our individual and personal way of saving tourism.

Because if politicians help and the pandemic subsides, which it will, recovery is closer.

Ángel García Butragueño
Tourism and Leisure Director