Coronavirus impact is overwhelming, Spain's hotels association says

MADRID (Reuters) - Hotel bookings have fallen by as much as 40% in some areas of Spain, the country’s hotel federation said and flagged an overwhelming impact for the eurozone’s fourth largest economy as anxiety about the coronavirus outbreak takes hold.

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Tourism accounts for 12% of Spain’s Gross Domestic Product and is especially important during next month’s Easter holiday period.

Hotel bookings were around 20%-30% lower at the start of March compared to the same period a year ago and the drop is as steep as 40% in some areas, the country’s hotel federation said.

“The impact is overwhelming,” said Jorge Marichal, the president of Spain’s hotels and tourist accommodations federation CEHAT.

“The (sales) figures are decreasing a lot. We are talking about a percentage between 20 and 30 percent, in some places up to 40. It depends also on each type of installation,” he said.

Concerns over the impact of coronavirus on the sector has been exemplified by a hotel in Tenerife, under lockdown with hundreds of tourists inside since Feb. 25 after several cases of coronavirus were reported there.

The Canary Islands, where Tenerife is located, is one of the hardest-hit tourists spots, another CEHAT official said.

Spain’s tourism ministry is in contact with the tourism industry and monitoring the situation to assess whether it will need help, a ministry source said, asking not to be named.

Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said on Wednesday she did not expect a significant economic impact from the coronavirus in the country for now while some hotel chains announced discounts and offers to lure wary travelers.

The disease has killed so far five people and infected 365 in Spain.

Some businesses, such as the production of face masks, are seeing an upsurge in demand.

“The requests are by minute, we are contacted by people from around the world,” the manager of Spanish mask manufacturer Climax told Reuters, declining to give his name.

He mentioned pharmacies, distributors and individuals as the main groups contacting him.

The Barcelona-based company is one of the main European paper mask manufacturers, selling them in over 70 countries.

Despite the increasing demand, he said the company does not have the capacity to go beyond its current maximum production of around 20,000 masks a day.

Reporting by Guillermo Martinez and Joan Faus; editing by Ingrid Melander and Barbara Lewis