"Spain is the second most important tourist destination in the world after France, and China the most important source market," said Rafael Cascales Sisniega, president of the Spain China Tourism Association (ATEC), highlighting the opportunity presented by the Asian market, and Chinese market in particular.
MADRID, May 5 (Xinhua) -- As Spain is set to end its "state of alarm" on May 9, insiders of the country's tourism industry are looking to China as a lever to reactivate the sector amid easing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
"China is a strategic market and we hope that China can be the lever to reactivate the tourism sector in Spain when the pandemic ends," Rafael Cascales Sisniega, president of the Spain China Tourism Association (ATEC), told Xinhua in an interview.
According to him, the end of domestic travel restrictions when Spain's state of alarm expires on May 9 would open the door to more travel within the country and boost the tourism industry. What's more, he said, the sector is also expected to receive new investments in the coming months and years.
Under the government's Recovery, Transformation and Resilience plan (2021-2023) presented to the European Union on April 29, Spain's tourism sector would undergo a short-term recovery through modernization and digitalization.
The plan will see investments of 70,000 million euros (84,500 million U.S. dollars) over the next three years, with the tourism sector expecting to receive around 3,400 million euros.
"Spain is the second most important tourist destination in the world after France, and China the most important source market," said Cascales, highlighting the opportunity presented by the Asian market, and Chinese market in particular.
He added that it is necessary to further promote Spain as a tourist destination in China, as there are currently only seven offices of Turespana (the Spanish Tourism Institute) in the populous country.
Chinese travelers spend more money than other visitors in Spain. In 2019, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Chinese tourists spent 1,675.52 million euros in Spain, with a record 896,000 Chinese visiting the country, according to tourist expenditure survey (EGATUR).
Cascales believes that Spain should promote tourism in new, long-distance markets with the promise of high-profitability.
Cascales, who is also director of the Spanish Association of Foreign Trade Professionals (ACOCEX), emphasized that China is not only a competitive market in terms of tourism and consumption, but also in terms of investment.
"The investment of Chinese companies in the past year has not dropped, on the contrary, it has increased, because it is a solid investor," he stressed.
The pandemic hit the Spanish tourism sector exceptionally hard, leading to losses of around 76,600 million euros, with the number of visitors dropping by about 68.3 million between January 2020 and January 2021, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Only 432,362 tourists visited Spain in January 2021, 89.5 percent fewer than in the same month of 2020, while spending fell by 90.5 percent, according to data on tourist entry movement and expenditure, released by the Spanish Statistical Office. (1 euro = 1.20 U.S. dollars)