Influential Hotel CEO: Spain Won’t Survive Second Corona Summer

The CEO of Meliá, the largest Spanish hotel chain, has said that Spain will not survive a second corona summer with low tourist numbers.

Historic low

According to INE, the Spanish National Statistics Institute, the summer of 2020 was one of the worst ever in modern history.

As large numbers of foreign tourists remained home due to the corona virus pandemic, the year of 2020 saw the lowest number of tourist arrival since 1969.

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A colourful street in Alicante, Spain. ©Paliparan


Last year, foreign tourists spent 19.7 billion EUR on their Spanish holiday. Although that number might seem a lot, it is a 78.5 percent drop compared to 2019 according to INE statistics.

Where in 2019 tourism made up 12 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product, this dropped to just 4 to 5 percent in 2020 according to the latest estimates.

barcelona spain
Tourists walking on a seaside boulevard in Barcelona. ©Paliparan


The appalling numbers are a cause for concern for Spain’s future according to Meliá CEO Gabriel Escarrer.

The Majorcan billionaire and chief of Spain’s biggest hotel chain said that “Spain will not survive a second summer without tourism”.

He said: “It is vital to develop a roadmap now which includes a 24/7 public-private vaccination strategy, protocols and coordinated measures for safe travel with the countries where tourists come from.”

Other European countries

Spain is not the only country which is heavily dependent on tourism in Europe. Greece is another tourist-dependent Mediterranean country which in 2020 posted a record-low number of tourist with arrivals being down by 85 percent.

I’m curious to see what measures European countries will come up with this year as governments need to tread carefully and find a compromise between supporting their tourism industry and protecting the public health of their own citizens.

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Aiguablava beach on the Costa Brava. ©Paliparan

European Union

Another big question mark is whether European Union member states will open its external borders for visitors from countries such as the US and China.

The EU however has already announced that this will depend a lot on reciprocity. If the US and China keep their borders firmly shut for Europeans, there is no chance that the EU will open its doors for American and Chinese tourists.

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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