Spain clocks worst first semester tourism figures on record in 2021

The number of tourists who visited Spain in the first six months of 2021 is the lowest since records began, new government data reveals.

Spain clocks worst first semester tourism figures on record in 2021
Spain clocks worst first semester tourism figures on record. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Between January and June 2021, only 5.4 million travellers visited Spain, according to figures released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) on Tuesday.

This is half the number who visited in the first half of 2020 (10.7 million), which primarily due to the first three months of the year before the Covid pandemic hit, and nowhere near the 38 million who visited in 2019.

The low figures makes it the worst semester since monthly records from Turespaña and the INE started in 2000.

Between January and June (included) 2021 there were 51.7 million overnight stays, representing 74 percent less than in 2019.

Much of this is attributed to the fact that the United Kingdom, which has always been one of Spain’s main sources of tourists, wasn’t even one of the top four countries that visited Spain in the first half of the year.

Until June this year, only 273,000 Britons visited Spain, according to INE figures, due to the restrictions imposed by the British government. This is a massive difference compared to the 2.1 million Britons who arrived in Spain in June 2019 alone.

During this time, Spain has seen the most visitors from France (1.2 million), followed by Germany (1.2 million), then Italy (310,000) and the Netherlands (290,000).

The regions that received the most foreign tourists during these past six months were the Balearic Islands, with almost 1.3 million; Catalonia, with 975,000; and the Canary Islands, with 750,000.

Regarding spending, the figures are also just as bad. Between January and June this year, foreign visitors spent €5.7 billion, which is half the amount of 2020 and 85 percent less than in the same period of 2019, when tourism income exceeded €40 billion in this period.

This means that the tourism sector has lost €34.5 billion compared to before the pandemic.

The tourism sector was hoping to recover some of what was lost last year, but Spain’s fifth Covid wave has hampered this.

Month by month, however, figures are looking more promising. In June, 2.2 million foreign tourists arrived in Spain, almost double than in May and almost 1,000 percent more than in the same month of 2020, when only 204,000 arrived.

However this sharp increase is mostly due to the fact that Spain’s borders were still closed in June 2020, so many people were unable to travel. This is still only 25 percent compared to the 8.8 million people who arrived in Spain in June 2019 however.

In terms of spending, in the month of June 2021 alone, international tourists spent a total of €2.4 billion – a considerable increase from 2020, but again nowhere near the €9.7 billion that was spent in June 2019.

The average spending per tourist in June 2021 was €1,090, a 66 percent improvement over last year.

READ ALSO – ‘Covid rollercoaster’: Spain’s tourism industry struggles to see light at the end of the tunnel

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.