On Wednesday, Pedro Sánchez announced a government plan for the “relaunch of tourism” based on financial and labour support measures to be added to those already agreed in repositioning Spain “as a safe and sustainable destination”.
The financial aspect of this plan, which totals 2,651 million euros, has been described as insufficient. There may, however, be more to follow, in particular with regard to ERTE.
The whole tourism industry is crying out for both greater flexibility in allowing businesses to restart without prejudicing the advantages that ERTE has provided and for an extension to the end of the year for those businesses (and employees) which need this.
The employment minister, Yolanda Díaz, has indicated that ERTE will be extended to December. “Without any doubt” to quote her.
While the 2,651 million is quite obviously a substantial sum, it has to be considered in context. The 2,500 million of this to be provided by the Instituto de Crédito Oficial is more than ten times the ICO financing that the government announced in December for businesses affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook. The 200 million euros for Thomas Cook was also a vast sum, but Thomas Cook, by comparison with the impact of the virus, was a minor blip for the tourism industry. One can use that 200 million as a means of providing context, but in truth the situations cannot be compared.
Ten times-plus more sounds a lot, but not when one considers the scale of devastation.
Thomas Cook was in a sense an isolated event in that it mostly affected certain parts of the country - the Balearics and Canaries especially - but the virus is a national disaster for the tourism industry, with over 40,000 million euros of tourism GDP having already been lost.
The other thing to be said about Thomas Cook is that it was a crisis (a small-scale one, as we must now appreciate) from which recovery was to be very rapid. There was plenty of tourism industry capacity in order to effect a recovery. Such capacity has been diminished greatly because of the virus, and the rapidity of recovery will not be short-term.
The tourism industry isn’t exactly jumping for joy, although the Sánchez announcement and the fact that he has shifted his emphasis in the direction of tourism in his recent statements may offer some comfort for an industry which has felt abandoned during the crisis. But there is an impression that the package announced on Wednesday owed at least something to political expediency. It was framed within the negotiations with Ciudadanos to secure their backing for the final extension to the state of alarm. Do we therefore conclude that it was the Cs who were driving this 2,651 million and not the government?
This might be a conclusion, but I don’t know that it is a fair one. Tourism may not have been foremost in the government’s thinking in the early days of the crisis, but it has increasingly been pushed up the agenda. Financial packages for the industry will have been as much in the government’s mind as they would have been any initiative by the Cs. For all this, though, the industry will remain deeply unsatisfied by the government’s response, a sensation that hasn’t been lessened by the quarantine on foreign travellers, a measure which although irrelevant in terms of foreign tourism (because there couldn’t be any tourism during the state of alarm) was felt to have sent out the wrong message and to have acted as a deterrent to tourism reactivation once the quarantine and state of alarm were lifted.
But to come back to the funding for the tourism industry, the CEO of Meliá and president of the Exceltur alliance for tourism excellence, Gabriel Escarrer, says that the Spanish government should adhere to the European Union's request that a quarter of EU reconstruction funds is directed towards tourism. Spain is to receive around 140,000 million of these funds. In which case, tourism should receive 35,000 million. Half of this, Exceltur argue, should be in the form of direct aid, while the rest would be loans.
A considerable advance, therefore, on 2,651 million euros.
Medical presence in hotels and on planes
In response to the crisis, Iberostar formed a medical advisory board, which has established some 300 measures for the hotel group.
One of these is a permanent centralised medical service with ambulance and secure rooms. Iberostar is not alone in adopting these measures. Doctors permanently on duty in hotels will be a feature of this summer’s tourism when it finally gets going. A balancing act that hotels face is in not going overboard in giving the impression that they are quasi-medical facilities. This said, health is clearly a number one priority for guests, just as it is for the hotels. On the one hand, these facilities may seem like a turn-off, but on the other they will provide reassurance.
For air travel, the Satse nurses union has called on the Spanish government to ensure that there are nursing services at all airports and that a nurse is on board planes that will be in the air for five hours or more.
The protocols for air travel that have been drawn up by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control don’t include the necessity to have nurses on flights.
Watching out for “tourism of excesses”
On Tuesday, the Balearic tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, issued a reminder to promoters of certain types of tourism offer in Magalluf that they shouldn’t forget that “we have the decree for tourism of excesses”.
With offers appearing online, Negueruela responded by saying that the government will be “especially vigilant” so that “this type of tourism” which the government wants to eradicate “doesn’t have the chance of arriving on the islands”.
One very much doubts that he or anyone can prevent arrival, and he probably didn’t mean that per se. Rather, it was a warning that action will be taken, and it will apply equally to German tourists coming to Playa de Palma. Still in Playa de Palma, Palma Beach is the name given to a group of businesses in the resort area.
Its CEO, Juan Miguel Ferrer, says that the season is an “unknown” and that his organisation doesn’t have much confidence in Playa de Palma benefiting from national tourism. There isn’t the money, while it’s easier for tourists on the mainland to drive to a destination.
On the foreign market, which means German tourism especially, he believes that a recovery in bookings will only occur in September. There has been some increase in demand for July and August, but these months remain unknown.
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