It has come to something when the Imserso low-season subsidised holidays for Spanish senior citizens are viewed as both a source of salvation and as a make or break for sectors within the tourism industry.
Imserso is not viewed with great favour by much of the hotel sector. This is down to money. Hotels don’t exactly rake in huge profits from Imserso. They barely make any profit, and the amounts they receive from the Spanish government have been a source of argument for years.
However, we are currently in a rather unusual situation (which is putting it mildly), and Imserso is being viewed rather more positively. It can save the winter season. Well, it could have saved the winter season before the secretary of state for social rights, Ignacio Álvarez, announced on Tuesday that the 2020-2021 Imserso programme has been scrapped. It would be “foolish” to allow thousands of older people to travel, given the current health circumstances. The Álvarez statement to Congress came with a sting: foolish to allow the thousands to travel “in order to save the tourism industry”. This was an insensitive remark, and one which may just highlight a political difference. Imserso doesn’t come under the tourism ministry. It is controlled by the ministry of social rights, headed by Pablo Iglesias of Podemos.
Abandoning Imserso this winter did look increasingly inevitable, but it is yet another blow for an industry which could do with returns from this programme, however meagre they may be.