On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers activated the RED Mechanism for travel agencies thanks to the work carried out by our organization, with the support of the CEOE and the SPV, the majority union in the sector. It is a tool of the new labor reform which facilitates the flexibility and stabilization of employment to respond to exceptional needs of a macro-economic or sectoral nature justifying the adoption of adjustment and temporary protection measures. Thus, through 40% exemptions from Social Security, training actions are encouraged to complete the recovery of the sector while giving companies the flexibility to adapt to the future.
This decision is great news for a sector that has been calling for urgent action for months. In mid-February, and given the imminent end of the validity of temporary work regulation files approved specifically for the pandemic, we confirmed that travel agencies would not, on this date, be able to resume their activity in conditions of normality, it was therefore requested that the sector be included in the RED mechanism. Indeed, in January, 10,792 travel agency workers had not yet been able to leave the ERTE, i.e. 29% of workers in a sector whose turnover has fallen by almost 90% in 2020 and by 56% in 2021.
Even so, it must be made clear that this crisis is temporary and that agencies will recover as soon as mobility restrictions at regional, national and international levels are removed.
Despite the analyzes that predicted a change of cycle in the tourist intermediation sector, travel agencies in Spain accumulated an uninterrupted series of seven years of growth before the pandemic. Since 2014, the sector has grown both in terms of the number of agencies and the number of intermediaries. And this also in employment: from 2013 to 2019, the number of workers affiliated to the activities of travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and activities related to them increased by 32%: while in 2013 , they were on average 49,573 registered with Social Security. workers, this number increased to 65,687 workers in 2019.
On the other hand, Spain’s conversion in recent decades into a predominantly service country has also led to a decline in productivity. However, travel agencies provide significantly higher added value than other services: they recorded a productivity of 44,998 euros in 2019, up by more than a thousand euros compared to the previous year. The average for the service sector, however, was 37,889 euros.
Regarding the number of intermediated operations with airlines and their invoicing, data from the International Airline Association (IATA) clearly shows growth before the health crisis. The total air ticket sales volume through agencies in 2016 was 4,597 million euros and in 2017 it was 4,727 million, representing a year-on-year growth of 2.81%. In 2018, it increased by 5.05% to 4,965 million and by 4.17% in 2019 to 5,172 million euros. Only the pandemic could stop this growth.
In this line, the intermediations of Spanish agencies have increased even above their European counterparts. If in 2017 the weight of Spanish agencies represented 6.42% of total European air travel sales, this weight has continued to grow each year, even during the health crisis: it rose to 6.53% in 2018, to 6.77% in 2019 and, despite being already in a pandemic, it increased to 6.89% in 2020 of all sales in Europe.
Finally, another example of the weight and growth of travel agencies in Spain is their 40% contribution to the distribution of Renfe tickets. In fact, before the pandemic, sales of AVE tickets by travel agencies increased more than the average for all the distribution channels of the railway company. This has also translated into an increase in average income, thanks to the weight of face-to-face sales by agencies, which bring more value.
In short, these data do more than demonstrate the solidity of the travel agency sector, immersed in a gradual recovery. This recovery will be gradual and will be marked by the reopening of international markets, the resolution of the war in Ukraine and the relaxation of the travel policies of large companies, since agencies are fundamentally dependent on outbound tourism, MICE and Business Travel. . In the meantime, the inclusion of agencies in the RED mechanism is a very important step in order not to let down a sector that must be in a good starting position to help Spain once again lead international tourism. Finally, from our organization we would like to thank the sensitivity of the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy and the support received from the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, CEOE and SPV.
carlos garrido is president of the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies