The recovery of tourism in Spain was still halfway through and the sixth wave of the pandemic, fueled by the omicron variant , has caused a relapse that is slowing down the reactivation. Tourist activity is growing strongly in relation to the data for the dismal 2020, but it is still far from pre-pandemic levels. The new wave of infections has caused cancellations and a drop in reservations, and the sector fears that the slowdown that began to be felt in December will continue until Easter
, which this year is celebrated in April.
During the entire pandemic, mainly thanks to the ERTE system due to force majeure, the fall in employment -measured in number of employed- has been less than the collapse of the sector's activity tourist. And now in the middle of the sixth wave, the recovery of employment in the sector is maintained and continues to be faster than the reactivation of demand and business that is now slowing down.
Employment in the branches of activity linked to tourism was still in December and in November a 7% below the levels of the pre-pandemic levels, corresponding to the same month of 2019, with improvements in relation to the previous months despite the fact that the activity of the sector suffered a clear relapse.
In November and December, tourism activity -measured in terms of sectoral GDP- was affected by the impact of omicron, and stood at 19% and 24.7% below pre-pandemic levels, respectively, with larger drops than in previous months, according to records from Exceltur, a lobby that brings together some thirty of the largest tourism companies in the country (such as Meliá, NH Hotels, Iberia, Globalia, Riu, Amadeus or Renfe).
“In a context of strong uncertainty linked to the successive waves of the pandemic, businessmen have made a effort in the incorporation of personnel for the opening and start-up of its operations, which has translated into a better behavior of employment than the activity itself”, Exceltur points out in its latest quarterly report on the sector's perspectives.
“Tourist companies have maintained its commitment to maintaining its operations in the last two months of 2021 despite the impact of the sixth wave,” the lobby underlines. In December there were still 135,000 jobs in the tourism sector affected by the pandemic . Of these, 78,000 were those corresponding to the lowest affiliation to Social Security in relation to before the pandemic; and another 57,000 were workers still covered by ERTE due to force majeure, 45% of the total number of those registered in the protection system
Erte for all 2022
The large tourist groups recognize that the system of ERTE (temporary employment regulation files) linked to the covid approved by the Government has been essential to give flexibility to the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, allowing the suspension and reincorporation of companies based on the needs linked to the stoppage of activity.
Exceltur criticizes, however, the uncertainty generated by the continuous extensions of the validity of the ERTE with extensions of only a few months. With the last extension, the Executive decided to extend the ERTE due to force majeure until February 28. Exceltur demands to maintain the current scheme throughout 2022 to give certainty to companies in the sector, with an automatic extension that allows them to continue with current conditions.
“Despite the positive prospects for a gradual recovery, thanks to the massive and effective effect of vaccination in Spain and the EU, the complexity that marks the beginning of the year 2022 and the postponement of the total recovery of income to 2023 require maintaining active mechanisms of flexibility and support I to the Spanish tourism companies, again the most affected of the Spanish economy. The priority in the first half of the year should focus on guaranteeing the survival of the greatest number of viable tourism companies”, they indicate from the association.
In this sense, in addition to demanding the continuity of the ERTE as a labor shield , Exceltur asks for a specific non-refundable direct aid program due to the stoppage of activity caused by the sixth wave and the speeding up of the payment of pending funds in many CCAAs. The tourism giants also ask to prioritize the sector in the injection of bailouts by both SEPI and Cofides, and a refinancing and extension of ICO loans beyond June.
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