As one of the countries under the UK’s travel corridors scheme, the Spanish tourism sector had an opportunity to regain some sort of normality and was benefiting from pent-up demand sooner than expected. However, it is expected to see demand plummet again now that restrictions have been put back in place, as the imposed two-week quarantine for returning travelers will deter many people who are unwilling or unable to isolate due to other commitments. This is disastrous not only for Spain’s tourism industry, but also for UK businesses on the supply side.
According to industry analysts, UK tourists are crucial for Spain’s economy as it is one of the country’s largest source markets. Spain saw 15.8 million international arrivals from the UK in 2019 and was forecast to see 16.4 million in 2020, pre-COVID-19. To put this into perspective, the next biggest source market is France, with 11.7 million arrivals in 2019.
Travel industry operators are seeking ways to rescue the holiday season. Tour operators such as Jet2 have canceled holidays in light of the quarantine announcement. However, under new proposals, they will be able to promote holidays to ‘COVID-19 safe destinations’. This means they will see the economic benefits if these regional travel corridors are confirmed in the coming weeks. Pent-up demand will have been created by those tourists that were waiting to book a holiday until it was confirmed that they would not have to quarantine once back in the UK.
The announcement that British travelers will now have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period when returning from Spain was the latest significant blow to a sector that now risks being permanently scarred. However, the potential for regional corridors offers at least some hope of survival for destinations in Spain and tour operators in the UK alike.