Tourism sector pinning hopes on last-minute bookings and staycations for August

Campsites and rural accommodation busy, optimism on the Costa Brava, Barcelona hotels suffering

A man carries inflatables down to the beach in Salou, July 27, 2021 (by Ariadna Escoda)
A man carries inflatables down to the beach in Salou, July 27, 2021 (by Ariadna Escoda) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 31, 2021 08:51 PM

Catalonia's tourism sector is relying on last-minute bookings and local residents taking staycations this August.

There is a mixed picture across the country, with many campsites, hotels and holiday homes in rural areas fully booked, while occupancy rates in Barcelona remain low.

A lack of foreign visitors is being felt in coastal areas and beach resorts, but tourist chiefs on the Costa Brava are relatively optimistic, saying that both local and international holidaymakers are making last-minute bookings.

Pyrenees proves popular

Hotel bookings in the Pyrenees are currently between 80% and 90%, according to the Lleida Hospitality Federation, which says it expects many to be fully booked. Similarly, occupancy rates for rural accommodation such as villas and self-catering holiday homes are at almost 100%.

Campsites too are filling up, especially for the first two weeks of August, where bookings are already between 95% and 100%. The majority of bookings in the Pyrenees are from Catalan residents opting to take holidays close to home.

Summer "lost" in Barcelona

It is a very different scenario in Barcelona, much more heavily reliant on foreign tourism. Manel Casals, head of the Barcelona Hotel Association, says that the summer is "lost" due to the "catastrophic" effects the pandemic has had on the sector.

"We currently have 40% of hotels open with an average occupancy rate that is also around 40%," he told the Catalan News Agency (ACN).

"Normally there would be around 60,000 people sleeping in hotels in Barcelona every night but now there are only about 11,000."

"In the last six to eight weeks we have noticed a slight increase in some nationalities, basically Italians, Germans and French. But it is very slow," Casals says, adding that bookings from American and Asian tourists remain very low.

Cautious optimism on the coast

On the Costa Brava things are looking better than in the Catalan capital.

Esther Torrent, president of the Tourist Apartments Association, is predicting less holidaymakers than a normal August, but more than last year, and says there is "optimism" about bookings.

Reservations from international tourists are creeping up, and in July they had a healthy number of Catalans staying in the region, according to the Hospitality Association of the Costa Brava.

Further south, on the Costa Daurada, it is hoped that Russian, British and Irish tourists will help "salvage the summer," with more visitors in August.

While the overall picture for the tourist industry is nowhere near as good as pre-pandemic levels, it is better than last summer, but the overwhelming feeling remains uncertainty.

As Montse Callau of the Delta Ecotourism Association says, "every time you open an email, it could be a new booking or a cancellation."