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Spain’s tourism industry feeling the loss of British visitors

The Spanish tourism industry is feeling the loss of British visitors, whose numbers plummeted 82% in 2020 from the previous year, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). The drop is blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, which led to strict restrictions on travel, quarantine rules and the closure of bars and restaurants. Most of Spain is used to receiving tourists from the United Kingdom, be it over summer or in the low season. The drop has hit the Canary and Balearic islands especially hard, as both archipelagos are highly dependent on international tourism and air connectivity.

But it is not just visitors from the UK that are being missed. Spain’s tourism industry is also feeling the loss of tourists from Germany, France, Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Italy. The drop in British tourists, however, has been the greatest, both in terms of the number of arrivals and in expenditure. This fall – together with the decline in German tourists – is having a big impact on Spain’s islands.

In the Balearic Islands, the drop in British tourists has been dramatic. Just 223,000 travelers from the UK visited the archipelago in 2020, compared to 3.7 million in 2019 – a fall of 93%. The decline in visitors from Britain, which is the second-largest source country of tourism to Spain, has been keenly felt in popular tourist destinations like Calvià in Mallorca island and Sant Antoni in Ibiza, with many businesses in these areas forced to close.

The numbers of tourists began to nosedive from mid-July, when the British government of Boris Johnson recommended against travel to Spain and imposed a 14-day quarantine on visitors returning from the country in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The fall in German visitors compounded the loss. Last year, only 720,459 tourists from Germany visited the Balearic Islands, a drop of 84% on 2019 figures. In total, spending by all international tourists in the region plummeted from €14.8 billion in 2019 to just €1.8 billion, a fall of 87%. Indeed, the Balearic Islands is the Spanish region that has seen the biggest drop in all international visitors, with the numbers of foreign tourists from 13.6 million in 2019 to just 1.7 million last year, a drop of 87%.

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