Spanish hotels more expensive and tourists not coming back

During 2022, tourism, the traditional engine of the Spanish economy, recovered almost all the power lost during the height of the Covid pandemic. This is proven by the data published by the employers’ association Exceltur, which suggests that tourist activity already exceeds the levels of 2019, and is certified this week by the statistics on accommodation in hotel establishments published by the INE. However, the country emerges from the crisis with more expensive hotels and with a foreign tourism that still has not recovered all its muscle.

Spending a night in a Spanish hotel now costs, on average, 101 euro, compared to 89 euro three years ago. The price increase is 15%, similar to that experienced by general consumer prices in the same period (11.4%). “We are with prices similar to those of 2019. The prospects for 2023 are reasonably good at the moment, but we all know that we have events that can change the market,” said Ramón Estalella, president of the Cehat hotel association.

However, not all establishments have adjusted their prices equally. Five-star hotels have raised room prices by 19% compared to 2019, while single-star hotels have barely raised them by 4.6%, well below the inflation registered in the period.

Nor have prices evolved in the same way in all areas of the country. The destinations that have become more expensive are the Balearic Islands (21% more expensive than in 2019), Andalusia and the Canary Islands (17%) and Aragon and Madrid (15%). In contrast, Castilla-La Mancha, the Basque Country (7% both) and Catalonia (8%) maintained more stable prices.

The provinces in which it was more expensive to spend the night in a hotel were Santa Cruz de Tenerife (119 euro), Barcelona (118); Malaga (113) and Guipúzcoa (113). On the other side of the spectrum, Albacete and Palencia (51 euros per night) were the cheapest provinces.

According to the data published by the INE, last year almost 103 million travellers stayed in the network of national hotel establishments, still 6% less than the level registered in 2019. To find those six million tourists who are still missing, we must look beyond the borders. Last year, the arrival of foreign tourists was still 11% lower than that registered the last year before the pandemic.

The cases of Germany and the United Kingdom are striking. The two great golden hens for Spanish hoteliers are British and German travellers, two nationalities that have not visited Spain as much as before. Last year, 7.5% fewer British travellers and 9.2% fewer Germans stayed in Spain than before the pandemic. But these two nationalities are not the only ones that explain the figures. There is also a lack of Italian, American, Japanese, Russian tourists…

The preferred destination for travellers (Spanish or not) was the Valencian Costa Blanca, which accumulated 2.2 million overnight stays (6% less than 2019). Then come the Costa del Sol (Málaga), with 2.1 million visits from foreigners (10.4% more) and Barcelona, ​​a city where 1.7 million international travellers stayed (6.3% more). And the tourist areas that grew the most were the islands, especially La Gomera and La Palma (Canary Islands), where visits have increased by 30%.

The gap that remains may still reflect a certain pandemic effect. The first months of 2022 were affected by the expansion of the omicron variant, which limited visitor arrivals, especially from other countries. This hypothesis is reinforced by the data: as of August, foreign tourism has exceeded pre-pandemic records every month. However, there is also the possibility that, given the increase in prices when many people are struggling to make ends meet, Spain has lost competitiveness towards other cheaper destinations.