Spanish tourism companies fear a new brake on the sector’s recovery after the Russian attack on Ukraine and the resulting destabilization of the region. As the travel industry began to recover from the omicron hit, another element of distortion arrived. And this time, in the most disturbing way possible: due to a geopolitical conflict that led to war and endangered the lives of the civilian population.
Airlines were the first to respond and paralyzed flights with Ukraine and its border areas after the country’s airspace was closed and warnings from European aviation authorities. The six connections scheduled yesterday between Spain and Ukraine at Barcelona and Alicante airports, the only ones scheduled for Thursday, have been suspended. Ryanair, the airline with the most connections between Europe and kyiv, has decided to cancel “at least 14 days” all flights with Ukraine, as well as the sale of tickets to and from the country during at least four weeks, pending the evolution of the war conflict. Lufthansa or Wizz Air, with intense activity in the region, have done the same, while Iberia does not fly over the affected airspace or does not fly regularly to Ukraine or Russia, sources explained. business.
Ukraine was the airlines’ new target this holiday season
Ukraine was also one of the targets of the tourism industry next summer season. Some airlines had programmed for the first time connections between kyiv and Lviv with Spanish cities because they had detected the interest of the Ukrainian population to spend their holidays in Mediterranean destinations. Ryanair planned to offer flights between Barcelona airport and Lviv, a route which was open for the first time, as well as between Reus airport and Kyiv. Vueling, for its part, had regular flights between the Canary Island of La Palma and the capital of Ukraine for the summer season. For the moment, the company owned by IAG has not made a decision on whether or not to suspend this new route. The situation took the worst turn and normality was turned upside down. Ukrainians who made their living and planned their holidays in Spain are now finding it difficult to protect themselves from the Russian attack.
The Russian market, of particular importance in Catalonia, could also suffer from instability and possible sanctions in the country. “This season, we hoped to recover tourists from Russia and neighboring countries, but now everything is uncertain,” confirms Marta Domènech, director general of Turisme de la Generalitat.
Catalonia is the number one destination in Spain for tourists from Russia and neighboring countries. Of the 1.3 million visitors to the region who arrived in Spain in 2019, spending 1.4 billion euros, half went to Catalonia. Most of them, towards the Costa Daurada and Terres de l’Ebre. “It is our third international market, just behind the French and the British”, explains Xavier Guardià, spokesperson for the Federation of Hotel and Tourism Companies of Tarragona. In this area there are many Russian tour operators associated with hotels and all tourists arrive by plane, mainly via Reus airport, but also from Barcelona. Now, with open warfare and paralyzed flights in its airspace, the arrival of these tourists “obviously will suffer”, says Guardià.
In the city of Barcelona, although they represent only 2% of visitors, they represented an “important” tourist group due to the high expenditure they made in local businesses, adds Eduard Torres, president of Turisme de Barcelona. For this reason, the entity carried out an action in this country last year to promote Barcelona and attract more travelers. Now everything is on hold.
Catalonia, and more specifically the Costa Daurada, is the main Spanish destination for Russia
Instability and risk, in general, do not help the reactivation of travel, laments Manel Casals, secretary general of the Confederació Empresarial d’Hostaleria i Restauració de Catalunya. The rapid rise in the price of oil also raises fears of an increase in the price of plane tickets. And if the plane costs more, there will be less demand.