MADRID: Overnight stays at Spanish hotels plunged in 2020 even as room rates dropped due to the pandemic, which forced half of the country’s lodgings to close their doors, official data showed Monday.

Spain, the world’s second-most visited country after France before the pandemic, recorded 91.6 million overnight hotels stays, a 73- percent drop from 2019, the INE national statistics office said. Around 55 percent of these stays were by Spanish residents.

Spain imposed a strict nationwide lockdown in March to contain the spread of the virus which hit the key tourism sector hard.

Even after the lockdown was fully lifted at the end of June, tourism remained weak due to travel restrictions imposed by many other nations following a second wave of infections.

As of the end of December less than half of all hotels in Spain, 48.2 percent, were open, according to INE.

The average cost of hotel rooms fell by six percent meanwhile. Tourism accounts for about 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 13 percent of employment in Spain and the plunge in arrivals has hammered the economy, the euro zone’s fourth biggest.

Around 14 percent of Spanish hotel jobs, or 190,000 posts, were cut in 2020, according to Spanish union CCOO. Spain has recorded more than 55,000 deaths from nearly 2.5 million cases of Covid-19 so far.

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