Spanish tourism sector loses money as Russians stay away

by Lorraine Williamson
Salou tourist tax

MADRID – The West’s sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine are also affecting Spain. Especially the tourist places that were popular among Russians see their revenues plummet. 

The Spanish tourism institute, Turespaña, estimates the economic impact of the absence of Russian tourists this year at €1.4 billion. The calculation is based on the latest data from 2019, the year before the corona pandemic (largely) paralysed tourism. Then 13 million nights spent by Russians in Spain were registered. Russian tourists thus represented 2.25% of the total number of overnight stays in hotels. 

Costa Dorada and Salou 

For some tourist destinations, this impact is extra big. Consequently, the absence of the Russians is already being felt there. One of those destinations is the Costa Dorada in the northeastern province of Tarragona. Here, Russians accounted for 18% of the total number of hotel stays in 2019. 

Big spenders 

Filling the gap left by the Russian absence in reservations is causing a headache for operators of hotels and other tourist complexes. Also because Russians are known to spend a relatively large amount of money. According to Turespaña, 2.7% of all spending by foreign credit cards in Spain is done by Russians. However, in Catalonia and the Valencia region, that percentage increases to 5% of total purchases and consumption. 

Efforts to compensate for the absence of Russians 

The municipality of Salou organised a special meeting for institutions and catering companies last Monday. The aim was to draw up a plan to mitigate the effects of the Russian absence. Salou now presents itself as the second preferred destination of Catalonia, after the city of Barcelona. “And if we consider the whole country, Salou is the fourth preferred destination for tourists,” a representative of the municipality told El País newspaper. 

Now focus on other key source markets 

The sector is now working hard to attract additional tourists from the existing large source markets. Including British and French tourists. They also want to entice extra German, Belgian and Dutch tourists and for the first time, they are explicitly targeting Swiss and Italians. 

Turespaña’s social media in those important source markets is now followed by a campaign with a special focus on Salou and the Costa Dorada. 

The largest group of tourists in 2019 was British 

In 2019, 8 million people stayed overnight in Salou. The British tourist was the most important customer from abroad with 1.4 million overnight stays. This was followed by the French and Russians with over 900,000 overnight stays each. 

90% drop due to pandemic 

In 2020, after the outbreak of the pandemic, the contribution of Russian tourists to the Spanish economy had fallen by no less than 90 % compared to 2019 to €113 million. 

Also read: Hotel bookings fell at the start of the invasion of Ukraine

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