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Spain’s visitor numbers in 2021 fall far short of tourism targets

Spain's vital tourism industry welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government's target, official statistics showed Wednesday.

People visit the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on May 29, 2021 as it reopens for tourist visits. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
People visit the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on May 29, 2021 as it reopens for tourist visits. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

The figure from the National Statistics Institute was 64 percent higher than in 2020, when the pandemic decimated the travel sector worldwide as countries imposed lockdowns and closed their borders.

But it remained 63 percent below the 2019 figure, when 83.5 million tourists visited Spain, the world’s second most popular destination after France.

The government had hoped to see 45 million foreign visitors in 2021.

Spain’s tourism industry accounted for 12.5 percent of its economy before the pandemic. The figure fell to just 7.4 percent last year, according to the Exceltur tourism association.

British tourists, who before the pandemic made up the biggest national group of visitors, only numbered 4.3 million in 2021.

The French became the biggest contingent last year with 5.8 million visitors, up 49 percent from 2020, followed by the Germans at 5.2 million, an increase of 117 percent.

The official figures show tourists spent 34.8 billion euros in Spain last year, or 76 percent more than in 2020, but 62 percent less than in 2020.

Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto highlighted the figures from December when 2.9 million tourists visited Spain, despite the “uncertainty generated by Omicron”, the highly-contagious Covid variant which has been sweeping Europe.

“The sector will consolidate its recovery in 2022,” she said.

Member comments

  1. Really? Even though they were that close to making everyone wear a freaking mask on the beach? When they made it close to impossible to enjoy anything related to tourism like, I don’t know eating, drinking and relaxing? Weird, who would have seen this coming!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Spain’s summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Following the announcement that Ryanair and EasyJet staff have added further strike days in July 2022, we list the dates that travellers looking to fly to and from Spain may want to avoid booking tickets for.

Spain's summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Strike action by Spain-based cabin crew working for Ryanair and EasyJet will continue throughout the month of July, unions representing staff for Europe’s two biggest low-cost airlines have confirmed.

EasyJet’s strike days in July will continue as initially announced on June 21st.

In Ryanair’s case, the six-day stoppage was meant to come to an end on Saturday July 2nd, but a further 12 days of strikes have been added throughout the month of July due to the failure to reach an agreement over cabin crew’s low pay and work conditions. 

“After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days,” USO unionist Lidia Arasanz said with regard to the 1,900 Ryanair employees they represent.

So far, the stoppages by Ryanair and Easyjet staff have not meant that absolutely all their flights to and from Spain have been cancelled, but dozens of scheduled flights have indeed not taken off and hundreds more have suffered delays on these previous strike days. 

Minimum services have been provided for flights within the Spanish mainland and to and from the Canary and Balearic Islands, especially those leaving from Madrid, Málaga, Barcelona, ​​Alicante, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Girona, Santiago de Compostela and Ibiza airports.

A Ryanair cabin crew member holds a placard reading “Ryanair, low salaries made simple” as she protests at Terminal 2 of El Prat airport in Barcelona on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

For international flights the situation is more complicated, especially for Ryanair passengers with scheduled flights from Belgium, Italy, France and Portugal, as the low-cost airline’s cabin crew in those countries have also joined the strikes.

Even though UK-based Ryanair and EasyJet staff are not on strike, the sheer number of flights between Spain and the UK has meant that thousands of British holidaymakers have already been affected.

Málaga, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca’s airports have reportedly been the most affected by Ryanair and EasyJet flight cancellations thus far.

READ ALSO: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Many EasyJet and Ryanair passengers who have already booked flights to and from Spain for July will no doubt want to know with plenty of notice if their flight will be cancelled, something that is not possible to know in most cases until the airline emails or texts them.

Ryanair’s management has said it expects “minimal (if any) disruption to its flight schedules in July as a result of minor and poorly- supported Spanish labour strikes”, although if what’s happened over the course of late June and early July is anything to go by, that won’t necessarily be the case.

The Irish carrier did acknowledge that “air traffic control strikes and airport staff shortages across Europe (which are beyond Ryanair’s control) may however cause some minor disruption and passengers whose flights are disrupted will be notified by email/SMS”.

It is possible to use Ryanair’s flight tracker to check on the status of your upcoming flight, but you’re unlikely to get accurate information if done lots of days in advance.

Dozens of EasyJet flights have been cancelled so far, even though the airline’s management says it intends to operate all of them. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

EasyJet has also said it intends to operate all its scheduled flights in July, whilst acknowledging that there could be some delays and other disruptions. 

On Sunday July 3rd, eight EasyJet flights to and from Spain were cancelled and 46 were delayed.

On Tuesday July 5th, EasyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew resigned, allegedly “to pursue other business opportunities”, news which certainly suggests that all is not well at the Luton-headquartered airline.

You can also use EasyJet’s flight tracker here to find out if your flight is going ahead

For those of you who have booked a Ryanair or Easyjet flight to and/or from Spain for July, or those who are considering doing so, the following is a breakdown of all the scheduled strike days by cabin crew for both airlines for the coming weeks.

Ryanair strike days 

Tuesday July 12th

Wednesday July 13th

Thursday July 14th

Friday July 15th

Monday July 18th

Tuesday July 19th

Wednesday July 20th

Thursday July 21st

Monday July 25th

Tuesday July 26th

Wednesday July 27th

Thursday July 28th

Easyjet strike days

Friday July 15th

Saturday July 16th

Sunday July 17th

Friday July 29th

Saturday July 30th

Sunday July 31st

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