Tourism outlook for 2021, according to Exceltur

Uncertainty continues to be the predominant key factor in the tourism industry today, therefore, experts and organizations in the sector don´t stop offering their views regarding the possible recovery and development scenarios of tourism activity during the year 2021.

From this point of view, Exceltur proposes its report Nº75, prepared at the end of January of this year, where, in addition to analyzing the tourism business balance for 2020, it offers a vision of the tourism prospects throughout 2021 and the factors that, as of today, could be decisive in terms of the rate of recovery in the sector.

Despite aspirations for a notable recovery for this year, largely thanks to advances in vaccination, the extent to which tourism will recover in the current year remains unclear. Professionals from companies in the sector have encountered a major problem when drawing up action plans and short-term forecasts: “30% of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the last weeks of December 2020 and the first weeks of January 2021 they did not feel they had the information and the minimum confidence to make activity forecasts in the coming months ”(Exceltur, 2021, p. 19).

In this way, according to Exceltur, the factors that are determining right now the resumption of tourism activity during 2021 are the following:

  • The stoppage of activity at the beginning of the year due to the intensification of the third wave of infections by COVID-19 in Europe;
  • Uncertainties related to the timing and efficacy of vaccination (possible mutations, when to achieve herd immunity, etc.);
  •  The degree of standardization of administrative decisions that govern both national and international movements;
  • The level of demand activation based on the employment situation and the availability of family income for travelling;
  • The scale of the capacity for business survival, as well as the power of initiatives to "wake up" the demand;

Likewise, the report reveals that we normally talk about the recovery of the industry in general, however, it is necessary to assess the different segments of the offer within the global tourism industry, since not all sectors will show the same level of recovery, and neither all will depend on the same factors for the reactivation.

Thus, among the sectors surveyed for the study, the large groups of travel agencies, as well as transport companies, foresee an unremarkable recovery in 2021, as they are heavily dependent on the rules regarding the freedom of movement, mainly in international terms.

On the other hand, hotels, leisure service providers, among others, especially those located in coastal areas, are leaning towards a more optimistic recovery scenario, as they have a considerable level of national demand, which could start to see the signs of recovery in late spring or early summer, under the condition of progress in the rate of vaccination and its effectiveness, as well as considering the possibility of travel within the country for leisure reasons.

Lastly, they refer to urban establishments and destinations, which, being again more dependent on international demand, and on business trips, show relatively lower expectations of recovery. The opposite could happen with the establishments and areas corresponding to natural and rural spaces, as they have been in greater demand in recent months and mainly by national tourists.

En los términos resumidos, “las perspectivas empresariales para 2021 evidencian una capacidad de recuperación más notable en los destinos dependientes de la demanda interna, especialmente en aquellos con una elevada concentración de su actividad en verano y con acceso en vehículo” (Exceltur, 2021, p. 27). De este modo, el consumidor español será el primero en reactivar las actividades dentro del propio país, previsiblemente antes de la temporada estival, y será durante esta última cuando se muestra la probabilidad de la reanudación de los desplazamientos turísticos por parte de los turistas internacionales, principalmente los europeos.

The year 2021, therefore, is considered a rather transitional year towards the recovery of normality, as different countries on a world scale are still faced with complicated situations in terms of levels of contagion and having recently started the vaccination process that, in European countries, has no forecast of being able to immunize the majority of the population before mid or late summer 2021.

Exceltur's full report available at:

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