COVID travel: Spain had 77% fewer tourists in 2020, costing country $86.3 billion

MADRID (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has pulverized Spain’s key tourism industry with arrivals dropping to 19 million in 2020, down from the near 84 million visitors the previous year.

The 77% decrease snapped a seven-year trend of annual records and ended a decade-long run of yearly increases.

The National Statistics Institute said Wednesday that income from foreign tourism plunged in 2020 to just 20 billion euros ($24 billion), 79% less than the 92 billion euros received in 2019. That €72 billion deficit is equal to about $86.3 billion.

The private news agency Europa Press said the country had not received as few visitors from abroad since 1969.

Prior to the pandemic and the subsequent travel restrictions imposed, tourism represented some 11% of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro GDP, making it one of the country’s leading industries. It has long ranked among the top three tourism destinations along with France and the United States.

With the virus still out of control and infection case numbers soaring, it remains to be seen if 2021 will be much different.

Authorities hope Spain’s vaccination program will boost confidence among foreign travelers.

“We must double efforts to convey abroad a message of confidence because we know that tourists want to come to Spain and if we provide the necessary conditions of security, they are willing to do so,” Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said recently. She said vaccines offered “a horizon of hope.”

Spain is banking on having between 30% and 40% of its population vaccinated in the second quarter and 70% over the summer.

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