The post-covid recovery
Business 25/08/2021

Tourism still well below pre-pandemic levels

1.5 million travellers passed through Catalonia in July, 37% less than two years ago

3 min
La Rambla de Barcelona, at the end of August

Barcelona"Despite the fact that we noticed an increase in tourists, the figures that we anticipated were bad and continue to be so". The general director of the Guild of Hotels of Barcelona, Manel Casals, has assumed that this summer is lost for some time now. And now the July data begin to confirm his suspicions: although tourism has doubled compared to last year, the levels are still 37% lower than before the pandemic.

According to the information compiled by the National Statistics Institute (INE), 1.5 million people have visited Catalonia this July. It is necessary to go back to 2005 to find a month of July with a similar number: by then there were 1.48 million. Of those who have come to Catalonia this July, most are people who live in Spain: only about 40% are foreign tourists. While it is true that this proportion is somewhat better than last year, when this tourism accounted for only a third of the total, it is still far from the 66% of weight it had in July before the pandemic.

And the same goes for overnight stays in hotels. Last July 4.1 million tourists slept in Catalonia -a figure never seen in a month of July in the historical series of the INE, which begins in 1999-, more than twice as many as last year (+120%), but almost half of those of July 2019. Again, the majority stands for domestic tourism, which exceeds foreign visitors by more than 300,000 people.

All in all, the state radiography confirms that Catalonia remains one of the main destinations for both domestic and foreign tourism. The country is, as it was in June, the second most visited place, and maintains the 17% tourist share it already had in July 2020. Specifically, it is the second most chosen destination by both resident travellers in Spain and by those coming from abroad, who choose above all the Costa Brava and Barcelona to spend the night.

In fact, Catalonia registers one of the most pronounced improvements in both the number of travellers and the number of overnight stays compared to last year, despite the fact that in this case there are several more important increases. The most obvious is that of the Balearic Islands, which this July absorbed 21% of the nights that have been made in Spain, while last year was satisfied with a share even one point lower than that of Catalonia (14.9%). It is not surprising, then, that the total number of overnight stays in the Islands grew up to four times over last year's levels.

Situation of Catalan hoteliers

As for the intrinsic situation of hoteliers, INE data show that the occupancy rate in July in Catalonia was 47.6%, a proportion that places them not only below the Spanish average but also behind ten communities. In fact, the average turnover per occupied room grew by only 4% (the Spanish average stands at 15%) and there is no Catalan tourist area among the eight that recorded the highest occupancy rate. However, if you look at the data municipality by municipality, Palafrugell and Begur stand out as the third and fifth respectively with the highest occupancy rate in Spain.

Barcelona is, after these two municipalities of Girona, the Catalan tourist place that accumulates the highest number of overnight stays. In this case, however, the updated information of the Hotels Guild shows that these figures are far from good and probably will not change much in August: according to this association, right now half of the hotels and aparthotels in the Catalan capital (about 220) are still closed, and those that are open have at least a third of the rooms closed. The only glimmer of hope is that this means that the occupation has climbed to 60% in August, after months stuck at 40%.