Tourist season in the Pyrénées-Orientales: after an “average” year 2021, professionals call for caution for 2022

While the first figures for 2022 are encouraging, mainly thanks to the winter sports resorts and the promising Easter holidays, the outlook for the rest of the season is more uncertain, mainly due to a worrying climate characterized by the resulting increase in petrol prices. decodings.

Is the Pyrénées-Orientales department experiencing a remarkable tourist year? With the end of the first half of 2022 approaching, the indicators are green, as evidenced by the good performance of the ski resorts, but caution is advised for professionals.

But before we project ourselves on the summer forecasts, a little bit back, with regard to the complete and definitive data on the tourist presence for 2021 in the Pyrénées-Orientales that has just been published.

Tourist visit in the Pyrénées-Orientales in 2021.
ADT 66 – ADT 66

Indeed, the 2021 season is obviously much better than that of 2020 marked by the outbreak of the health crisis, with 28.3 million overnight stays, an increase of 14.3%. But the step back from 2019 is significant. PO. registered 31.5 million overnight stays at the time. Worse, 2021 remains the second lowest year of overnight stays since 2000.

Evolution of the number of tourists in the Pyrénées-Orientales since 2000.

Evolution of the number of tourists in the Pyrénées-Orientales since 2000.
ADT 66 – ADT 66

Explanations for this phenomenon: the closure of the ski lifts in the winter of 2021 and the later opening of the hotel industry. “What we lost at the beginning of 2021 was not recovered later, although we had a summer season, which concentrates 70% of overnight stays between June and September, which is encouraging”, details of the observatory of the Pyrénées-Orientales Tourism Development Agency.

If gas prices rise, turnout falls

A year generally in decline, but which also finds explanations in the introduction of the health pass in June 2021. “All heritage, cultural and recreational sites have experienced difficulties. Tourism and restrictions do not necessarily go hand in hand” add the pros.

As for the outlook for the 2022 season, it remains uncertain to say the least, according to the same tourism players. “Whoever says with pleasure that we are on our way to a record year is going a little too fast. Caution is still advised”† Indeed, if all goes well, a particularly terrifying climate could shuffle the cards again. “There is something automatic in tourism. If the petrol price rises, the turnout decreases. This applies to overnight stays, but also to day trippers. The war in Ukraine and inflation will undeniably slow down. We also see that the French will not do that. be in the same logic as in 2020 where people have consumed a lot at the end of incarceration, especially in catering, even if it means diving into their savings.Nothing predicts that this will be the case this summer.We will also have a less dynamic spring as there are no long weekends in May.”† A rare certainty, the open-air hotel industry should be thriving, but this represents only 20% of the total number of overnight stays in the department.

Winter season: “When the skiing stops, the mountain stops”

With regard to the winter seasons of 2021 and 2022, the data from the observatory of the Pyrénées-Orientales Tourism Development Agency (ADT) is final. The closure of the ski lifts in 2021 due to the health crisis has, unsurprisingly, had a serious impact on the activity of winter sports resorts. For example, in 2021 there was a decrease in the number of overnight stays of approximately 57%. “We had to deal with an exceptional situation due to the restrictions. The decrease is less significant during the Christmas holidays 2020-2021, when people still came for the holidays, but is especially severe during the ski periods” we trust the side of the ADT. “These figures show that when the skiing stops, the mountain stops, especially since with this 60% drop in overnight stays there are no tourists, who are also much fewer in number. Admittedly, other activities have been developed in the ski area for fifteen years now. resorts but the heart of the model remains skiing”

An exceptional situation that contrasts with the 2021-2022 ski season, where the first visitor numbers show an increase of about 10 to 20% compared to the year 2019 pre-covid. “It is a good season for several reasons. First of all, the snow fell early; the sun was very good in January with nice weekends with no bad weather on the roads; good quality snow was present all season; the lack of skiing activity year round before demand went up”

Still according to the professionals, if the year had been good, it would have been much better if the department and the region, the main areas of origin of the clients of the Catalan resorts, did not have such a late school calendar. “The other drawback of the meeting in Toulouse, Perpignan and Montpellier is that the turnout is high in a short period of time and not spread over several weeks. This also affects the mountain economy”

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