MADRID (Reuters) - Revenue from tourism companies in Spain is likely to be 4.7% higher this year than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the sector, industry group Exceltur said on Tuesday.
Even with uncertainties over the war in Ukraine and inflation, that is the first time Spain's hotels, resorts, transport companies, car rentals and entertainment businesses have forecast better combined sales than before the pandemic, based on the bookings they are registering.
"The picture is hopeful," Exceltur Vice President Jose Luis Zoreda told a press conference.
"It seems that the desire to travel has prevailed and some firms are telling us that consumers would rather stop buying a shirt or an appliance than stop traveling."
The group said it made its forecast for 2023 based on a survey of some 2,000 businesses up to Jan. 5.
Despite a rebound in 2022 after two years of contraction caused by travel restrictions, overall revenue from tourism companies in Spain was still 2.1% below 2019 levels, Exceltur said.
The sector's recovery last year was mixed. For instance, while revenues for holiday hotels were up 7% from pre-pandemic levels, transport companies still sold 5% less than in 2019.
Tourism companies on average were able to increase prices by 6.6% last year, though they saw reduced margins due to rising energy costs and wage increases, according to the survey.
Spain's tourism industry is benefiting from an increase in the number of visitors from central Europe and Mexico.
Companies are now betting the full return of American and British tourists will bolster the recovery, even without counting on the return of Asian travellers.
If the forecast is realised, the tourism industry would represent about 12.2% of Spain's gross domestic product. However, that would be down from 12.6% in 2019.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Corina Pons; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter)