Table without a table

Table without a table.

29-01-2021Casa Real

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Every time a minister or government official says something, they either put their foot in it, offer unlikely predictions as to when the “recovery” will start or imply that there won’t be a recovery - not this summer anyway.

The only restriction that governments have yet to apply is one prohibiting secretaries of state, ministers and prime ministers from mouthing off about tourism. Serious consideration should be given to this, especially as they appear to have far too much time on their hands and thus fill their days contributing to interminable conferences and meetings (online) with vacuous and repetitive content. There is no tourism and so they compensate by talking about it (or rather its absence), the agenda of topics being constantly regurgitated - in no particular order, the vaccine, tests, safe corridors, protocols, ERTE, aid for business, blah, blah.

Hats off at least to the Balearics brave minister for the economic model, tourism and employment, Iago Negueruela. A fast learner is Iago. In early December he had been talking up an end-March restart. The egg still dripping from his face, earlier this week he declined to suggest a date. And why didn’t he? Well, because he doesn’t know, that’s why. The realisation had dawned. Bravo, Iago! Meanwhile, his boss, Francina, was letting us all know that normal life, courtesy of mass vaccination, is but four months off. Cry? We most certainly were, as deliveries of vaccine dribbled into the Balearics and EU-UK vaccine geopolitics were being played.

While Mark Tanzer of Abta was pointing out to ministers in the UK that their remarks regarding travel and tourism have a tendency to be somewhat “injudicious”, we have had Spain’s prime minister offering his view that the country will be “better prepared” to receive foreign tourists by the end of the summer (because of 70% vaccination of the population) and then seemingly revising this by stating “in summer”, which he did last Saturday.

This second intervention by Sánchez was overlooked and preference given instead to remarks by the national tourism minister, Reyes Maroto. “The priority is to reactivate tourism and resume safe mobility on a global scale as soon as possible. We hope that by the end of spring and especially during the summer, international travel will resume and travellers will choose Spain as their destination.” So, that was much clearer then.

Maria Frontera, the president of the Majorca Hoteliers Federation, borrowed from Maroto in saying “we miss you (British tourists)” and wanting to see these tourists again “as soon as possible”. No predictions from hoteliers, therefore, but they - as with business in general - have ground to such a halt that all they can do is go on about extending ERTE to the end of the year, direct aid, tax exemptions, etc.

How many more times is it necessary for there to be lengthy reports quoting, inter alia, the presidents of the Confederation of Balearic Business Associations, the CEOE national confederation of employers, the CEHAT national confederation of hotels, plus all manner of other associations saying exactly the same thing - day in, day out? We have, it’s fair to say, got the message.

The Mesa del Turismo, a body comprising leading figures in the tourism industry, was another delivering a message regarding aid for the industry, and it did so by dispatching executive members to an audience with King Felipe. Tourism must be policy of the state, the Mesa (Table) informed the King at a meeting where they were that well socially distanced that there was no table for them to sit around. Quite what the King can do is hard to say, but the Mesa met him anyway, it having a few days before been engaged in a Summit of the Presidents of Grand Tourism Organisations of Spain, at which they discussed, erm, ERTE, direct aid, etc.

Turespaña, the national tourism agency, is meanwhile gearing itself up for a reinforcement of a summer tourism promotion campaign, as and when the epidemiological situation improves. The director-general, Miguel Sanz, was avoiding predictions other than to highlight a monitoring report which indicates that Spain will be the first-choice destination in Europe in the coming months.

At a Turespaña conference, the director of Spain’s tourism bureau in London, Javier Piñares, admitted that it is “very difficult to make forecasts” but added that so long as circumstances are “minimally favourable”, British tourists will be rushing to Spain. The recovery could be “faster than some predict”, and he then went on to predict - despite the difficulty of making forecasts - that there will be “a strong increase in bookings for the summer”.

But what sort of tourism will these tourists be rushing to? The secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdés, said late last week that the coronavirus crisis provides an opportunity for Spain “to leave behind sun and beach tourism”. Valdés wasn’t engaged in any tourism forecasting, but he still managed to put his foot in it by upsetting the industry he represents in government. At the same Turespaña conference, therefore, Valdés found it necessary to clarify: “Spain is a leader in sun and beach tourism and will continue to be.”

If the tourists aren’t rushing back by the summer, if 70% vaccination hasn’t been carried out until the end of the summer, there was at least one possible salvation. In Spain, those who pretty much for sure will have been vaccinated by the summer - pensioners - could come to the rescue. It was Juan Molas, the president of the Mesa del Turismo, who raised this possibility. Imserso could be the salvation of summer.

Imserso. For goodness sake. Laugh or cry?

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