Spanish hotel boss warns sector is feeling first effects of Brexit

President of leading Meliá chain talks of slowdown in number of Brits booking holidays in Spain

The president of Spanish firm Meliá Hotels International Gabriel Escarrer said Wednesday that the tourism sector was feeling the initial effects of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. “British tourists book their holidays in advance and a slowdown is already being noticed,” said the head of the group, which has 370 hotels in four continents, during an appearance at the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair currently being held in Madrid.

Hotel Meliá Palas Atenea in Palma de Mallorca.
Hotel Meliá Palas Atenea in Palma de Mallorca.EFE

Until now, the effects of Brexit have not been felt with 16.9 million Brits making their way to Spain last year, 12.3% more than in 2015, according to recent figures from the Spanish Energy and Tourism Ministry. But Escarrer said this could change in the coming months.

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He noted, however, that “other markets such as the German or Scandinavian could compensate for the fall.”

Speaking about the outlook for 2017, Escarrer noted the uncertainty related to the arrival of Donald Trump as US president. “This could affect international relations, above all with Mexico and in relation to whether Cuba will open up or not,” said the Meliá president. The company, which notched up a net profit of €92.2 million in 2016, operates 29 hotels in Cuba with three more under construction.

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“No one knows what is going to happen between the US and Cuba, but the number of visitors [to the island] keeps increasing,” said Escarrer.

Spain broke its own tourism record for the seventh year in a row in 2016 with 75.3 million foreign visitors making their way to the country. That was 7.2 million more than in 2015, a rise of 9.9%, according to early figures from Spain’s Energy and Tourism Ministry.

The tourism industry has been an important driver of Spain’s economy over the course of the economic crisis. It contributes more than 10% to GDP and provides 11% of jobs. However, there have been calls for the market to diversify and try and attract more high-end visitors.

English version by George Mills.


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