What will come first to save Spain’s tourism industry - the vaccine or European funds? Both might be too late, according to the president of the CEHAT confederation of hotels, Jorge Marichal. Speaking earlier this week, he wondered if the Spanish government will one day have the “famous” emergency plan it has been promising. “Or will we have to keep waiting for EU funds? When that money comes, there won’t be a tourism industry any longer.”
Marichal was perhaps rather overstating things, but his latest observation came against the background of yet more dire predictions for Christmas. Tourism over the festive period, whatever tourism there might have been, is threatened because of the requirement for PCR tests. If rapid tests aren’t allowed, Christmas will be lost, and so difficulties for the industry will be further compounded.
There was a time when the industry viewed PCR tests as its salvation, before it very quickly became apparent that travellers are reluctant to shell out for them. Flights between the UK and Majorca - if there are any - are dirt cheap, but the cost of the PCR and the inconvenience is hugely dissuasive.
At the UK end, when Grant Shapps first flagged up the changes to the quarantine arrangements some weeks ago, he suggested that travellers would be willing to pay for PCRs if this meant spending no longer than seven days in quarantine (five days plus two to await the results of the test). Maybe some travellers will be, but equally there will be those who say forget it - what’s the point of flying with that additional cost?
So, and with the European Commission having urged member states to use rapid antigen tests instead, why is the Spanish government (and it is not alone) refusing to budge on the PCR requirement? It can appear as if it has dug a hole for itself in having not contemplated rapid tests and is not willing to lose face by climbing out of the hole, an absurd state of affairs when it is using rapid tests at Spain’s airports for those arriving who have to have one because they don’t have proof of a negative PCR.
And for the Spanish government, read also the Balearic government, which is pressing for PCRs for domestic travellers as well as for people coming from risk countries (Spain, mostly all of it, being its own risk country).
While much of the discussion about tests has concerned travellers from the UK, Germany and other foreign markets, in Spain - according to a survey by the Holidayguru online agency - 68% of travellers say that they will not be going abroad if they have to pay for a PCR to come back. If that same 68% have the same attitude regarding travel to the Balearics, then the government will be severely limiting the possibilities for the islands’ tourism.
On health grounds, the government is right to want tests in order to limit as much as possible a further increase in coronavirus cases, but it might take note of another finding from the Holidayguru survey, which concerns travel to the Canaries. With the government there proposing either negative antigen or PCR tests, 53% of survey respondents said they would travel to the Canaries.
The conclusion to be drawn from this survey, not highly scientific it has to be admitted, is that if antigen tests are an option, then the chances of people travelling increase by twenty per cent.
Venice delays its tourist tax
“A gesture of help and to stimulate the return of tourists.” This is a reason given by the city authorities in Venice for delaying the introduction of a tourist tax until the first of January 2022. The pandemic has forced a rethink.
The tax was due to have been introduced last year. It wasn’t because of technical difficulties. These had to do with the fact that the tax isn’t to be charged to tourists who stay in Venice but to those who make day visits.
Whichever tourists they are, the decision to delay the introduction is indeed a gesture of support for the local tourism industry, and it follows the decision of the government in Catalonia to further delay an increase in tourist tax rates to June next year, this increase having previously been delayed until the first of January.
Where isn’t there some similar tourist tax concession? It’s no use the tourism minister Iago Negueruela talking about changing arrangements for how the tax revenue is forwarded to the government by hotels and other accommodation providers. It’s the tax which matters, full stop.
EasyJet and Ryanair offers
EasyJet made a Black Friday offer of 350,000 tickets at reduced prices; 200,000 of these were for flights between the UK and Spain. Prices started from 24 euros, with the offer continuing until this coming Wednesday. The flights are from December 10 to June 30, 2021, and the airline will be allowing travellers, at no cost, to alter their destination and the date of their flight up to fourteen days before departure.
Ryanair have announced that they will be operating a new route between Teesside and Palma next summer. The route will start on the first of June and there will be two flights a week. The initial offer, which ends today, is tickets at a price of 29.99 euros.
Online agency for long-stay hotel renting
Badi, a room rental website, says that it is on the point of forging an “immediate alliance” with four hotel chains in Spain to publicise the availability of medium and long-term hotel room rental.
A number of hotels have started to make these offers, with the prices (averaging 500 or 600 euros a month) often more competitive than regular rental accommodation. Badi hopes to become the first online player in this new (and sudden) market for rentals of up to six months. The company’s CEO, Carlos Pierre, says that hotels will be able to broaden and diversify their offer and also make it less seasonal.
It is reckoned that some chains may be looking to make as much as twenty per cent of their stock available for this type of rental, and while one can see the possibilities for stays of three to six months, might they see a further opportunity in extending this offer beyond six months? It has to be especially attractive, one would think, to aparthotels or the tourist apartment-style hotels. Attractive because if there is some kitchen facility, it is more attractive to the client.
In one respect, this isn’t new, as hostels have been known to have long-stay renters. More upmarket accommodation is something else.