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José Luis Álvarez Arce, School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Navarra, Spain.

Flying with a single engine

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 08:18:27 +0000 Published in La Razón

As orphaned of good economic news as we have been for a long time, the positive signals coming from tourism since the beginning of 2011 have to be a cause for contentment. The outlook for the coming months also seems to reinforce this feeling. The Ministry of Industry, the sector's business associations and the World Tourism Organization itself are handling optimistic projections for the current year, which could close with an increase B in the issue of foreign visitors. Minister Miguel Sebastián, for example, recently commented that his forecasts for the summer are for a 5% growth in the sector's activity.

Several factors explain this turning point in the bad records suffered by one of the main industries of our Economics. On the one hand, the pull of demand brought about by the economic recovery of countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom, which traditionally fill our beaches. On the other hand, the political instability of the Arab Mediterranean, which could divert tourists to Spain.

In the event that the current flattering expectations are fulfilled, one of the outstanding news will be the decrease in unemployment during the long tourist season, which this year runs from the beginning of Easter to the end of the summer. This will be a relief for the battered Spanish society and a relief for those responsible for our economic policy.

However, it is important not to lose perspective. Thanks to factors such as climate, history or geography, we have a great comparative advantage that will keep tourism as a major sector in the Spanish Economics . It will do so regardless of the model of growth towards which we move. However, we cannot expect a solid recovery and the modernization of our Economics to arise from the leadership of tourism. This is a sector whose activity continues to show a marked seasonal character, in addition to being afflicted, with particular virulence, by some of the ills that hinder our growth, such as seasonality or the scant progress in productivity. In short, tourism is an engine that offers the Spanish Economics some power to take off, but by itself will be unable to take us very far. If we want to regain speed and height of Wayside Cross to leave the crisis behind, we will have to activate other engines and improve the aerodynamics of model. Will we know how to do it?