Thursday, 5 July 2012

Spanish Tourism Industry Prepares for Difficult Summer

21:09 |

Spain's tourism industry is bracing itself for a painful slowdown in bookings this summer, driven by a steep decline in local tourism, according to the country's leading hotel association. Reservations by Spanish vacationers for the month of July are 30% lower than last year, amid persistently high unemployment and a protracted economic recession, said Juan Molas, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations. An influx of visitors from Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe has compensated somewhat for the decline in local tourism, but weak local demand is expected to weigh on an industry that accounts for about 11% of Spain's annual economic output. Hotel owners are concerned that the government may raise the industry's value-added tax to 18% from the current 8%, in a bid to reduce its yawning budget deficit, making Spain less attractive to foreign tourists compared with other less expensive destinations "If the VAT rises to 18%, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the sector," Mr. Molas said at an event Thursday in Madrid. Spain's government is working to secure €100 billion ($126 billion) in aid for its struggling banking sector from the European Union and plans to meet with EU officials next week to discuss new measures to improve its public finances. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has already implemented €45 billion in austerity measures, but weak tax revenue threatens to undermine his administration's goal of trimming its shortfall this year to 5.3% of gross domestic product from 8.9% last year. Sentiment in the hospitality industry is at its lowest level since 2009, according to an index developed by the hotel association and consulting firm PwC. Based on a survey of hotel firms, 57% of operators expect international tourism will hold steady this year, while 76% expect domestic tourism to decline. "The parts of the country that will suffer the most are those that cater to national tourists," Mr. Molas said.

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