Sun, 09 Aug 2020

Spain suffers massive tourism drought

03 Jul 2020, 04:30 GMT+10

MADRID, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Spain received practically no international visitors this spring and its tourist sector has had next to zero income, with hotel bookings in the country saw a 99.9 percent drop in May, according to data published on Thursday by the country's National Statistics Institute (INE).

This is in stark contrast to May 2019, when Spain welcomed nearly eight million foreign visitors, who spent slightly over eight billion euros (9 billion U.S. dollars).

The all but complete lack of tourist activity is the result of the lockdown and the closure of Spain's international borders on March 14 in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

These measures meant that there were practically no foreign visitors in Spain in the second half of March, in April and May. The number of international tourists in the first five months of this year fell 64 percent compared with 2019 with 10.5 million arrivals, and spending was down 63 percent to 11.7 billion euros.

The closure of Spain's tourism sector is especially damaging as it usually accounts for 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and provides 13 percent of the jobs in Spain.

All this has been reflected in the significant increases in the unemployment rate since March, with the number of people out of work rising to 3,862,883 in June, according to the monthly unemployment figures published on Thursday.

The arrival of foreign tourists usually means that unemployment falls in June, but last month saw the jobless figure rise by 5,107, which is the worst June figure since the 2008 economic crisis.

Spain reopened its borders to residents of the European Union (EU) and the border-free Schengen area on June 21 and the EU began accepting travelers from some non-EU nations on July 1, which could save the summer season for many operators.

Domestic tourism is now expected by many to help make up for the loss of foreign visitors, although some hotels and restaurants still remain closed due to the uncertainty over a possible second wave of COVID-19.

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