It is quite curious, as well as outrageous, to see how one of the main engines of Spanish economic growth continues to be shut down, while the government, with its impassive attitude, continues to ignore the demands of such a vital sector of the Spanish economy. A sector that, in line with the forecasts of the hotel and catering industry, is predicting losses in the millions, as well as a fall in tourism activity which, given our recent and not so recent history, finds no precedent on which to base itself. A rather complex situation, given the contribution that the sector makes to our economy.

In this sense, we are talking about a great lack of measures to guarantee the survival of a sector that is fundamental to growth and employment in our country. And I speak of a fundamental sector, for the simple fact that its contribution, both direct and indirect, in light of the data, shows us the great dependence of the Spanish economy on a sector such as tourism. At the same time, it is curious that the Government, despite the declarations made and its announced desire to end the sector’s weight in the economy, continues to ignore one of the few sectors in which the Spanish economy is a global leader.

According to the World Economic Forum and the World Tourism Organization, Spanish tourism is the second most attractive tourist destination in the world after France. In this sense, competing with France, Spain is at the head of the world’s tourism powers, having been chosen by the World Tourism Organization, the UNWTO, to host the headquarters of that organization, as well as the first world tourism summit organized by the UN, in collaboration with major organizations and tourism agencies on the planet. A summit that, as defined by the United Nations tourism delegation, aims to make Spain the Davos of the tourism sector.

If to this, in addition, we add the contribution of this sector, the doubts that, a priori, we raised at the beginning of the article, begin to sound with more force. To give us an idea, the direct contribution of the tourism sector to the Spanish GDP is set at 13%. However, this figure does not include, so to speak, the indirect contribution, as well as all those auxiliary services that, derived from tourism, generate income thanks to the activity of that sector. When we add this indirect contribution and extract the total calculation that includes the direct and indirect contribution of the sector to the Spanish economy, we are talking about the fact that this contribution amounts to 25% of the GDP. That is, one fifth of the Spanish economy that, in light of the data, is subordinated to the tourism sector.

This sector, as is understandable and once we know the weight of tourism in the GDP, in the same way that it generates economic growth, also has a weighty role in employment in the country. In other words, the tourism sector is a sector which, given its contribution to employment, is of vital importance to our economy, as well as to our society. To give us an idea, the contribution that this sector makes to employment is 14.7%. This shows us how more than one tenth of the workers who are working in our country, work directly in the tourism sector, in fact, statistics show that one in every 10 people who are employed in the country, are employed in the tourism sector. If we add to this the capacity of this sector to create employment and adapt to complicated situations such as the current situation, due to a temporary nature that amounts to 32%, we are talking about a very relevant sector for our economy; despite the fact that some people dedicate their efforts to only highlight the “low added value of the sector”.

Thus, in line with everything mentioned above, the sector, according to forecasts made by the hotel and catering employers Hosteltur, could be left this year up to more than 92,000 million euros, which, as a direct consequence of the Coronavirus, would stop the sector from entering due to the loss of part of the tourist season, as well as society’s fear of contagion, in addition to the deterioration in family income levels. All this worries some tourism entrepreneurs who, in addition, and like many other sectors in our country, are entrepreneurs who own an SME, a tourism company of modest size, which, like the group of SMEs in our country, has more vulnerable structures, as well as more limited resources.

We must therefore begin to support a sector such as tourism more strongly. I will not tire of saying this, but we are talking about a sector in which Spain has a competitive advantage and yet we want to dismiss it as a parasite. We cannot continue to turn a deaf ear to the demands of a sector which, given the nature of the pandemic, cannot act to compensate for the expected losses. Moreover, with 92% of the citizens devoting their savings to domestic tourism, that aggregate of 8% more proposed by Pedro Sánchez, taking into account the deterioration we were contemplating, does not compensate for the losses that that sector must assume during this year.

It is time to attend to the sector, as well as to attend to it with the affection it deserves. We cannot discard a priority sector such as the tourism sector. If we do so, our economy will be hard-hit.

Francisco Coll MoralesEconomist

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