The significant volume of direct and indirect economic activity generated by tourism in the Balearic Islands in the years prior to the pandemic, 13,956 million euros in 2019, with a contribution of 41.3% of regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 41.6% of employment, suffered in 2020 by the COVID, a devastating tourism downturn similar to that of the rest of Spain. That year, tourism reduced its socio-economic contribution to the Balearic economy to 14.2%, after losing more than 70% of its turnover; a situation that worsened until the end of the first half of 2021, when it began to revive, recovering 60% of the pre-Pandemic tourist GDP by the end of that year.
This is one of the main conclusions of IMPACTUR Baleares, the study of the Economic Impact of Tourism, prepared by Exceltur with the collaboration of the Ministry of Tourism of the Government. The Minister of Economic Model, Tourism and Employment, Iago Negueruela, together with the President of EXCELTUR, Gabriel Escarrer and its Executive Vice President, Jose Luis Zoreda, were responsible for highlighting the main conclusions of this report, which on this occasion analyses the evolution of the sector both just before and during the pandemic.
During his speech, Iago Negueruela stressed the importance of public-private collaboration, a synergy that allows, “in these times of uncertainty”, to move in the same direction on the main issues affecting the Balearic Islands. “As a result of this joint work, we have been able, together with Exceltur, to draw up a joint report that highlights the recovery that the tourism sector has staged in our destination, which led the Balearic Islands to lead all statistics in 2021, a situation that allows us to face this year’s season with confidence, despite the circumstances”.
Gabriel Escarrer recalled how “The disruptive phenomenon of Covid-19 and the unprecedented measures on a global scale referring to the confinements and restrictions on international and domestic mobility for health control generated a crisis of historic dimensions on the international tourism sector as a whole, deeply affecting Spain and the Balearic tourist destinations, after decades of progress and well-being brought by tourism to Balearic society and economy”. The results of the Study IMPACTUR Illes Balears show the enormous damage that has been caused in 2020 by the fall in COVID, of 10,104 million € on the total direct and indirect tourism activity, -72.4% less than the Balearic Tourism GDP of 2019 (13,956 million €), reducing the weight and contribution of tourism to 14.2% of the total Balearic economy, versus 41.3% that reached in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.
After the devastating reality for the islands in 2020 and the first half of 2021, tourism activity in the Balearic Islands showed a notable reactivation at the beginning of the summer of 2021 (-30% IIIT21 vs IIIT19), extending the season, thanks to the Spanish mainland market (especially in July and August), French, Belgian and Italian, and the good response of the German market. Although with a low incidence in the tourist year as a whole for Balearic destinations, from mid-November there was a slowdown in the trend of improvement due to the new restrictions in Europe to control and limit the expansion of the omicron variant.
This gradual improvement made it possible to close 2021 with a 60% recovery in the Balearic Islands’ tourism GDP compared to 2019, when it reached 13,956 million euros, recovering 4,521 million euros that had been lost due to the drop in activity caused by the pandemic between March and December 2020.
All in all, direct and indirect tourism activity on the islands in 2021 reached 8,373 million euros, with the weight and contribution of tourism to the Balearic economy rising from 14.2 in 2020 to 27.7% in 2021. This translated into an estimated growth for the entire Balearic economy in 2021 of 10.4% compared to 2020, according to data from the Balearic Government and higher than the national average (+5.0% vs. 2020, according to the INE).
Impact on employment
According to Impactur Illes Balears 2020, 56% of people employed in the different branches of activity linked to tourism in the islands were affected and the average number of people who took an ERTE in the same year was 35,207, 58% of all workers in ERTE in the Balearic Islands. In these circumstances, the contribution of tourism to employment generated in the islands was limited to 22.4% in 2020, a sharp drop from the levels of over 40% that it had represented during the four years prior to the pandemic.
“Despite the growing uncertainties due to the successive waves of the pandemic, tourism entrepreneurs in the Balearic Islands made a great commitment and effort during the pandemic to incorporate staff, seeking to accelerate the start-up of their operations,” remarked Gabriel Escarrer, who highlighted the better performance of employment (-56% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels) than of the activity itself (-72% in 2020 compared to 2019).
Public and private investment
The report also highlights the important work carried out by the various public institutions in the Balearic Islands, to try to mitigate the intense losses of activity in excess of 15 billion from March 2020 to the end of 2021. To overcome this difficult situation, the Balearic Government promoted a series of measures to support the tourism sector to alleviate the problems of liquidity and lack of activity, establishing a whole social shield to protect the productive fabric and the nearly 200,000 workers who work in the tourism sector in the Balearic Islands.
At the same time, since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of the Balearic Islands has worked to promote a recovery capable of boosting companies and returning all workers to work, establishing an extensive programme of safety protocols for tourism, protecting its workers and speeding up the granting and processing of aid to companies and the self-employed. All so that the sector could restart as soon as possible and in the safest possible way.