TRADITONALLY at this time of year hotels across Mallorca and the Balearics would be full and heaving with festive cheer - not this year. The vast majority are closed, some have not opened all year, over 200,000 jobs in the tourist industry hang in the balance, over 13,000 million euros have been lost and the forecast is for the Balearic GDP to have fallen by 25% this year, five times higher than during the 2009 economic crash. This time last year only a few people knew about the storm which was brewing - most remained silent while those who tried to warn the world were never to be heard of again.
Maria Frontera, President of the Mallorcan Hotel Federation told the Bulletin this week that the hotel industry and the entire tourism food chain in the Balearics “has been dealt a serious blow and is bleeding badly."
“We’ve witnessed activity in the industry shrink by over 83 percent over the course of this year and looking forward, right now, it is still looking very complicated. But, Balearic hoteliers are extremely resilient and we have all been working for many months to try to repair the damage and prepare ourselves for when we can open our arms and welcome back British and international tourists.
“Sadly, the authorities don’t appear to have grasped the true extent of our situation. Yes, financial aid has been made available and furlough schemes extended, but it has not been enough despite our pleas to local councils, the Balearic government and Madrid. Now, we are working with the Spanish tourist board, Turespaña, and we had very encouraging virtual meeting with our key markets, such as the UK and Germany only the other week."
“They too are keen to resume operations as soon as possible. We know that millions of Britons can’t wait to come on holiday to Mallorca and the Balearics or visit their second homes, but not only do we have to get this virus under control and the case numbers down, we also need clarity from the local government and all the authorities."
“The hoteliers here in Mallorca have been working hard for decades to protect one of the most desired holiday destinations in the world. For some, we had a short season back in June, but while the hoteliers approached the window of opportunity with great professionalism, the message from the local authorities was confusing and I don’t think the right protocol was in place. The pilot scheme, as we’ve just seen in the Canary Islands, was a great idea but flawed and we can’t afford to let that happen again."
“This is why apart from lobbying the government for more financial aid, fiscal breaks, of which we’ve had hardly any, job security and promotional assistance, we are also pushing for more clarity and transparency so that the tourist industry in general knows how to operate and can do so on a level playing field and holiday makers know exactly what the procedures are and what to expect in resort."
“While talking about 'safe air corridors', which we believe should be established on the same criteria across Europe, the governments here in Palma and Madrid should also be addressing issues such as the cost of PCR tests, for example, and the complicated process of having to obtain one 72 hours before travelling. In some countries such demands cannot be met, never mind the bill for your average family."
“Perhaps it is time to postpone the tourist tax in order to ease the financial burden on families. To be honest of late we have no idea how much tourist tax money there is or what it’s being used for. If there is money there, then we need to be using it and being proactive. The authorities have to be much more aware of what they are saying and how they say it. Like I said we have got to be clear and transparent. We need to increase awareness about the virus and boost confidence in the travelling public. We need to make it easier and cheaper for people to fly when the time comes."
"The hoteliers in Mallorca have learnt a great deal this year. We’ve held numerous meetings via Zoom and pooled years of experience to make sure that we are constantly one step ahead of the game and more than ready to return to action once the tourists gates are open again. We have the bridge hotels and an established protocol should anyone fall victim to the virus. Within our possibilities we have created a safe and secure environment for holidaymakers, the rest, I am afraid is up to the local and central government and they need to step up to the plate and give us more assistance and support."
“Apart from the thousands of direct jobs which are at threat, think about their families. What are we going to do about the local farmers and producers whose market has dried up this year, for example? Tourism is vital to the Balearics and we can’t afford to cross our arms and sit back and wait for all this to simply pass. We have to be prepared and that is what the hotel sector has been doing and will continue to do."
“The public and private sectors are working together. The Spanish tourist board is in regular contact with tourism bodies and governments across the world, keeping lines of communication open, sharing advice and knowledge so that we are in pole position. But, at a time like this, when the crisis is changing day by day and it’s extremely hard to figure out what is going to happen next, we need to be sending out a friendly message to all of our visitors. Remind them we’re still here and that we’re waiting with open arms to welcome them back."
“So much work has been carried out over the years by the private sector to establish Mallorca as a prime destination. Not only during the summer but all year round thanks to investments which have been made into cycling and hiking, for example. And, so many of the people who come on holiday, if they don’t own a second home here, are repeat visitors. This is very much the case with the British, many families have been coming here for generations and we don’t to lose that. Their loyalty and love for the island is highly valued by us all and this is why we want the governments and authorities to do more in helping us ensure that people will be able to come to Mallorca with confidence. When that is going to be? Who knows. On the one hand, some of us are thinking about Easter while others are opting to wait and see and are looking more at May or even June."
“Look at what has just happened over the past week with this new strain which has thrown us all back into chaos and uncertainty with more travel restrictions and cases rising again. One thing is for sure, it’s not going to be an early bird market, despite the vaccine."
“We’re not expecting January to be the traditional boom booking month. From what we’ve been told by our colleagues around Europe it’s going to be a late booking market and a slow one, whatever happens with the virus. And that is not good for hoteliers. Late booking normally means we have less time to plan and prepare but many hoteliers are going to be ready in the New Year for whatever happens, whenever. But, while we want to provide clarity for our clients, we as an industry also need clarity. We can’t afford another year of opening and closing all the time.
“We are fighting for our survival, as are destinations around the world and fortunately Mallorca is one of the fittest so it will survive, but it’s going to be a long and painful recovery I'm afraid and it could take years for us to see the kind of tourism figures we’re used to, if ever. But that’s fine. It’s one of the approaches we’ve taken - better quality but fewer tourists."
"Just look around the island, from the beaches to the mountains, the architecture, the culture, the world class hotels and award-winning gastronomy, it’s all here and it’s all local. We need to be concentrating more on these jewels and continue improving quality and value for money. We need to keep diversifying our products and sell it with pride and confidence. If we receive fewer visitors, but they spend more, it helps us create a more sustainable industry."
“We know that we have the tour operators and the airlines on board, although the island could do with better flight connections, especially during the low season and we’re going to have to see how this pans out post Brexit despite the deal Spain and the UK need to have bilateral agreements in place, on the table now so that come January 1 the only restrictions governing travel between the two countries will be the virus.
“We’re literally hanging from the edge and we can’t afford any mistakes on behalf of the authorities, they have got to be watching our backs - the Balearics is depending on it. We can’t push it, but I can’t stress strongly enough, we have to be ready and willing - more than ever. We have the experience and the professionalism, this is is why we’ve led the market and continued to raise the bar for decades. Let’s just hope we can gradually start recuperating from this virus next year."
“It’s going to be tough, extremely tough, but we need to be proactive and send out the right message.”