By Hillman Hollister
The effects of the economic crisis in Spain seem to have long overstayed their welcome. Young people struggle to find jobs and often flee the country in hopes of finding success abroad. However, in 2014 Spain managed to create its first year of positive economic growth since the crisis. One factor that kept the economy afloat during the times of trouble which started in 2007 and aided in turning the tides is slightly unexpected: tourism. It may seem like a small industry at first glance, but it turns out that transportation, accommodation and all of the other services demanded by foreigners start to add up. To put it into perspective, in 2015 the total contribution of travel and tourism to Spain’s GDP was 15.2%.
The power of tourism for the job market
Tourism works wonders for the economy and job market in Spain because, despite an economic crisis, a dangerous situation in the nearby Middle East and terrorist attacks across Europe, people continue to travel. Thus, tourism creates an almost certain supply of jobs through thick and thin. In total, the tourism industry directly and indirectly contributes to 15.3% of all employment in Spain. According to Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, there is a very low barrier to entry to the labor market in the tourism sector, and this likely contributes to the fact that this industry created over 2 million jobs in 2014. Rifai also noted in an event organized by the escuela suiza Les Roches that, on average, each job in tourism creates 1.4 new jobs in other fields. Tourism is thus the perfect storm: it is an easy industry to enter, contributes enormously to the economy and also supports other jobs.
Tourism and the technology boom
Due to the recent technology boom, tourism has also taken on a new form. In 2012, Spain adopted a program to incorporate technology into its tourism sector, and this has contributed greatly to its success. Using big data, companies in Spain now collect information on what tourists are buying, where they are buying it, and when they are buying it. This data is compiled and examined to find patterns which can be used to optimize both profits and the experience of tourists. As a result of the digital age, many companies have also been born which have revolutionized travel. These companies, such as Airbnb and Bla Bla Car make life easier for travelers and also give more people an opportunity to get involved in the tourism industry. For example, through Airbnb, a resident of Madrid can offer up their house or apartment for some travelers to stay in for a few nights. Airbnbs usually cost less than hotels, so they allow travelers to save money and they help homeowners turn a profit. Thus, it is even easier to become a part of the tourism business than it was in the past. Fortunately, these new developments have not threatened the traditional aspects of the tourism industry such as hotels. In fact, due to the rising ease of travel, investment in hotels is expected to increase.
Sustainable tourism helps to create more jobs
Taleb Rifai has also stressed the need to incorporate education into the tourism industry. It is vital that students study tourism and hospitality in order to make the field more efficient and sustainable in the future. If this can be achieved, tourism will be creating jobs in the Spanish economy for years to come.