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When will Andalucia’s international tourism return to pre-pandemic normality?

International passengers are increasing month by month © stock photo
International passengers are increasing month by month

When will Andalucia’s international tourism return to pre-pandemic normality?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began at the start of 2020, many industries and economies have taken a major blow, but arguably haven't been as hard hit as the tourism industry.

According to the INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica), Andalucia saw a 345% decrease in the number of international tourists arriving into the region in 2020 compared to the year before. 12,023,153 international tourists visited Andalucia in 2019, contrasting with just 2,700,613 in 2020.

A study by the INE found that tourists, between the years of 2019 and 2021, spent an average of 384.20€, with British tourists surpassing that average at 399.57€. Analysis by Caixa Bank revealed that Andalucia took a 47% drop in tourist expenditure in 2020, predominantly income generated by international tourists. In 2020, spending by foreign tourists alone fell by almost €10 billion in the region, compared to a total spending of €12.5 billion by overseas tourists in 2019.

Spain is British holidaymaker's favorite vacation spot and is Europe’s second most visited country for all international tourists, according to The United Nations World Tourism Organization. Andalucia takes an average of 14% of annual tourist arrivals in Spain, making it the country’s fourth most popular region to visit, closely behind the Balearic Islands (16%), Canary Islands (17%), and Catalonia (22%).

After Spain closed its borders on 18th March 2020, the country officially recorded zero arrivals during the months of April and May, as such low figures were negligible. It is the first time this has occurred since records began.

The return of tourists was prompted by UK and Spain’s phased approach to reopening its borders:

  • 21st June 2020 - Spain’s borders reopen. Britons have strict travel advice in place and must quarantine on return to the UK.
  • 10th July 2020 - Travel in and out of Spain permitted. British travel advice advises against travel.
  • 26th July 2020 - UK reintroduces quarantine.
  • 21st December 2020 - Spain closes its borders once again following a spike in cases.
  • 24th May 2021 - Spain reopens its borders. British travelers are required to test and quarantine.
  • 19th July 2021 - UK removes quarantine legislation but requires testing to travel to and from Spain.
  • 21st October 2021 - UK removes testing requirements.
  • 1st December 2021 - Spain removes restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers.
  • 11th February 2022 - UK removes all restrictions for vaccinated travelers.
  • 22nd May 2022 - Non vaccinated tourists can now enter Spain with a negative COVID-19 test

The complexity of navigating these changing rules helps us understand why the recovery is taking its time.

Latest official data

Official Data by INE for 7 months up to July 2022 (released 01-09-2022), recorded 5.4m international arrivals to Andalucia compared to 6.9m in 2019; the last year of “normality”. This is 79% so there is still a long way to go in terms of 2022 catching up to pre-pandemic figures. However international arrivals are headed in the right direction and are increasing month by month. (January 2022 was 56% of Jan 2019, February was 68% and March 72%, April 80%, May 86%, June dropped slightly to 81% and July was 89%).

The percentage of tourists arriving from UK  into Andalucia was lower than the overall international tourists with 1,35 Jan to July 2022 compared to 1,8m in 2019. This is 76%. However the monthly percentages peaked in June. (January was 39%, February 54%, March 66%, April 78%,  May 81%, June 90% and July was 85%).

Passenger movement statistics published by AENA paint a similar picture. International passengers  increased month by month. January was 61%, February was 76%, March was 82%, April was 85%, May was 90%, June was 86%, July was 85%, August 96%. Passengers on flights to or from the UK seem to have plataeued in the low 80s per cent. January 2022 was 40%, February 61%, March 72%, April 82%,  May 84%, June 83%, July 82%, August was 81% of 2019.

Easter week of 2022 was notably more popular and by summer Spain and other countries had all but eliminated travel restrictions. The Andalucian tourist board was also trying to encourage visits from internationals this year, with the Andalucia Big music festival  in Malaga in early September aiming for 30% overseas attendees. The easing of restrictions paired with the line up of planned events seems promising for a busier year once again, in the hope of the region beginning its recovery of the pandemic.

Published 07-06-2022. Updated with AENA for May 14-06-2022, INE for May 24-07-2022,  INE June 10-08-2022, INE July and AENA for June to August 14-09-2022.

Living in Andalucia