Spain will lose more than 935,000 Russian travellers this summer (May-October) because of the sanctions resulting from the invasion of Ukraine, which also means losing more than one in every 100 tourists in a pre-pandemic year and more than 83 million euros in revenue.
Figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) on foreign tourism collected in the Frontur survey reflect that the peak season for Russian tourism coincides with the summer, somewhat extended, between the months of May and October.
In that period of 2019, the last year before the pandemic, a total of 936,825 tourists arrived in Spain from the Russian Federation, with monthly figures exceeding 100,000 people in all cases. In the rest of the months, the figures fall considerably below this figure.
However, Russian tourist arrivals in 2019 barely accounted for 1.2% of international traveller arrivals in Spain, which recorded 83.5 million arrivals, its all-time record.
Russian tourism – which now, after the invasion and sanctions, is finding it more difficult to move around the European Union – opts above all for the Levante and Andalusia, more specifically for the Costa Dorada, around Salou, and the Costa del Sol, around Marbella, areas where 70% of card spending by these travellers is concentrated, according to an experimental survey by the INE.
In any case, Exceltur did not foresee a clear recovery in the Russian market even before the start of the Ukrainian invasion. In fact, in January and February the influx from the Russian and Ukrainian markets (still more residual) fell by 72.9% compared to the same period in 2019.
The tourism alliance warns that there could be a redistribution of European tourists from some competing markets territorially closer to the conflict zone, especially Turkey, which is why it considers it vital to carry out marketing campaigns to counteract the “more than foreseeable” downward price policies of these destinations.
WILL THE BRITISH COMPENSATE?
Absences from the Russian market could be offset by strong growth in British tourism, which, although not yet at pre-pandemic levels, is increasing at stratospheric rates compared to last year.
Last April, tourist arrivals from the UK grew at rates of more than 5,000% over the same month last year, once the country lifted the severe restrictions on movement that it imposed to try to curb the expansion of covid.
The UK has traditionally been the leading source of tourists to Spain, a position it lost during the pandemic to the French, but which it has now regained. Flows from the British Isle are now returning to normal, as can be seen in the strong rates of increase since the beginning of this year, which are up to 52 times higher than a year ago.
The absence of the Russians, therefore, will not prevent the achievement of the Government’s objectives, which has advanced that this summer pre-pandemic levels will be reached to close the whole year at 80% of the activity of 2019. Exceltur in its latest report raises this percentage to 91.6%.
The improvement in the health situation and the elimination of restrictions on travel between European countries and some long-haul countries (the United States, an increasingly important market for Spain) also contribute to this optimistic climate, which is also reflected in the strong growth in bookings reported by various internet portals.
Although the forecasts for this summer are optimistic, the sector is keeping an eye on the evolution of energy prices, which have pushed inflation up to 8.7% in May, which could affect household consumption and holiday spending.
Tourist agents are concerned about these inflation rates because they mean an erosion of margins, already affected by the pandemic, given that businessmen are finding it difficult to pass on these increases in prices.
Nevertheless, the hotel price index has been rising since the second half of last year, and last April was 29.8% higher than the same period last year.
The average rate per available room (RevPAR) – the best indicator of hotel profitability – is already above precovid levels, at 59.56 euros at the end of April (compared to 53.45 euros in the same month of 2019).