Hotel bookings in Spain have exploded since the national state of emergency and the leisure travel ban expired last week, unleashing pent-up local demand and fueling optimism in the sector affected by COVID despite a shortage of foreign visitors.
Bookings reached more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels in the days following the end of the emergency decree, according to hospitality data provider SiteMinder. Global hotel bookings, on the other hand, are around half of 2019 levels.
“We continue to have positive expectations, although we need to exercise some caution,” said Sara Padrosa, National Director of SiteMinder for Spain. “We are not going to find ourselves in the same situation overnight as two years ago.
Driving the recovery is an increase in last-minute bookings from Spaniards, who have not been allowed to travel outside their home region since October.
But with most bookings allowing for flexible cancellation and generous refunds, hoteliers can’t yet breathe a sigh of relief, Padrosa said.
“What we need is for (customers) to follow through on all of these bookings… Until they get to the hotel, we can’t be 100% sure,” he said. she told Reuters.
Ramon Estalella, secretary general of the Spanish federation of hotels CEHAT, welcomed the return of local tourism but stressed that a complete recovery would depend on the return, en masse, of international travelers.
“Let’s face it, the internal market covers only 30% of Spanish tourist beds,” he said.
Stressing the importance of foreign visitors, the booking platform eDreams, said it expected domestic tourists to spend around 150 euros per person on travel this summer, down 46% from 2019.
Spain is rushing to set rules for safe travel, hoping to attract foreign visitors and save some of the crucial summer season after international arrivals plummeted to 80% last year.
The government expects a rebound to just over half of 2019 levels this summer, but Estalella said some regions could experience a recovery of up to 70% by September if a European passport program of vaccination is rolled out on time.
Mallorca-based hotel chain Melia said bookings by German tourists over the past two weeks had surpassed 2019 levels, with demand concentrated on the Balearic and Canary Islands, which Berlin considers safe destinations.
“The big gap and the big unknown is the UK market, which is the most important for all of Spain,” said Maria Umbert, communications director.
Britain authorized the resumption of international travel on Monday, but Spain is not on its so-called “green list,” meaning returnees must self-isolate upon arrival.
Madrid is pushing the British government to reclassify individual regions like the Balearic Islands and Valencia, which have a lower infection rate than Britain, as safe vacation spots.
After London authorized travel to Portugal, hotels there were inundated with inquiries from the British.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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Photo credit: swimming pool and terrace at the recently opened ME Ibiza in the Spanish Balearic Islands. Melia International Hotels