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Spain, a country that has historically relied on tourism as one of the main engines of economic activity, has ended up carrying an increasing risk due to the excessive weight that the sector has reached in the country’s economy. After France, Spain is consolidating its position as the world’s leading tourism power.

With a contribution of more than 180,000 million euros, tourism supports 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), ahead of other relevant sectors such as industry, whose weight has fallen to 12.5% of GDP. This contribution does not take into account the indirect contribution made by the sector itself, taking into account that, when calculating auxiliary services, we are talking about a relative that, when calculated, rises to 25% of the GDP.

To get an idea of the contrast with other European countries that are also leaders in the tourism sector, it is enough to compare us with France, which has 7.3% of its GDP dependent on tourism. In the OECD, the tourism sector represents, on average, 4.1% of the GDP of the member countries, as well as 5.9% of total employment.

In the case of Spain, in some Autonomous Communities tourism already represents almost 30% of employment, which means that, in the face of a contraction of the sector, the destruction of jobs could strongly unbalance the economy in those territories.

We must not forget that we are talking about a sector that is highly vulnerable, such as the precariousness of employment or the high level of seasonality of employment. The boom in the sector has meant that, in turn, the average per capita income in those regions most dependent on it has also fallen. To give an example, regions such as the Balearic and Canary Islands are completely dependent on the sector, so a shock in the sector could lead to the destruction of almost a third of the jobs.

Moreover, in other regions whose GDP is not so much conditioned by tourist activity, given the slow recovery of some sectors and the contraction that others are experiencing, tourism has positioned itself as the main contributor to GDP and has become the main engine of economic growth when it was not.

This is a sector that continues to gain weight in the national economy. Precisely because of this, Spain needs to promote a powerful tourism project, even more so when the economy is evolving towards one that is completely dependent on the sector. Phenomena such as digitalisation or the regeneration of certain coasts should be a priority for a country that aims to become the world’s main tourist destination.

Francisco Coll MoralesEconomist

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