Between vetoes, the tourism sector in Spain continues to agonize over a recovery that, given what has happened, seems to be slow in coming. It seems that I could be going too far in my statements when I say that the tourism sector has already lost this year and part of next year, but as far as the reality of what has happened is concerned, the vetoes that are being imposed on Spain by third countries, as well as the country’s high dependence on a sector such as tourism, could lead us into a rather complicated situation when the viral storm that is threatening us today dissipates completely.
First of all, before talking about the data presented by tourism and the losses that it is predicting for this year, it is worth highlighting the importance of a sector such as tourism for our economy, as well as its outstanding contribution to the country. In this sense, I think it is necessary to highlight its contribution, since, according to the last report made by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Spain, together with Italy or Mexico, leads the ranking of countries most exposed to the deterioration of the tourism sector. In other words, one of the countries that could be most affected by the fall that the tourism sector is expected to experience; given the weight of this sector in its economy.
In this sense, and already entering the subject, we speak of the sector contributing to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country with a direct contribution that is around 14%. However, if we include the direct contribution, as well as all the indirect contribution that tourism receives from auxiliary services that, in part, benefit the sector and what is known in economics as the hummingbird effect’, we are talking about a contribution that shoots up to 25% of GDP. Given the reality that offers this last figure, we speak of a quarter (1/4) of the Spanish economy, at this time, depends on the tourism sector.
However, what is worrying about a country like Spain is not really this situation, but the very dependence of some territories within Spain, having regions in the country that, being important for the national economy, have economies more dependent on the tourism sector than others. In this sense, we are talking about economies that, as is the case of the Balearic and Canary Islands, nearly 40% of their GDP is dependent on the tourism sector. This is a situation that should be highlighted, since we are talking about an asymmetric shock that could seriously damage some regions that, in view of this situation, would reopen a large gap in terms of inequality, for example.
On the other hand, if we look at the contribution that this sector makes to employment, the direct contribution that the sector makes to total employment is around 12%. However, as with tourism’s contribution to GDP, we are talking about a direct contribution. In this regard, if we take into account the indirect contribution of the sector to employment, we are talking about the fact that around 15% of employment in the country is dependent on that sector. This is a very significant contribution, which, as we should point out, reinforces the tourism sector’s great capacity to create employment and to make an active contribution to the economy. So much so that, taking into account the historical series and as a merely anecdotal data, tourism has generated, since 2013, 20% of all new employment generated on the planet. A contribution that has caused, incidentally, that 10% of the world’s working population, today, is directly linked to this sector.
However, it should be noted that, as in the past, we are facing a situation in which, like the GDP, this weight in employment refers to Spain as a country. However, especially in this sector, it is worth highlighting those asymmetries that have made the autonomous regions completely profitable, economies drowned and on the verge of collapse. This is due to the great differences and excessive dependence on autonomous regions which, using the same examples as the Balearic and Canary Islands, have an economy fully focused on the tourism sector. So much so that, in these Autonomous Communities, the sector’s contribution to employment amounts to over 50% of total employment in the islands in the case of the Canaries. In this sense, in both the Canary and Balearic Islands, almost half of the population is employed in the sector. This, given what has happened and the losses expected, leaves these regions in a very complicated situation.
In this sense, the importance of tourism for Spain is so high that, according to the forecast offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the contraction of GDP in Spain, 57% of this contraction, and we are talking about a contraction that already stands at 12%, would be justified by the tourism sector. That is, it is contracted by the contraction of the tourism sector. A situation that should make us think, trying to analyze ways to improve, as well as contain, the situation of that sector. Because attending to “toasts to the sun” as the changes in the productive model and another series of recommendations that have made certain politicians during the pandemic, not only does not improve the situation, while worsening the economy, but none to a fundamental and strategic sector for our country, and that, in the face of the situation, faces losses that already amount to over 100,000 million euros.