Spanish hotels beg officials not to block Brits after coronavirus lockdown ends

Spain’s hotel chiefs have warned they can’t afford to reopen after coronavirus lockdown ends unless British holidaymakers are allowed to return.

Under current government plans, Spanish hotels would be allowed to reopen starting on May 11 but borders would remain closed to international tourists. 

Spanish beaches, a major draw for tourists, are also set to remain shut until at least the end of June under the plan.

That has led hotel owners to complain that the costs of reopening will outweigh the potential benefits since they will be cut off from their largest market. 

Hoteliers on the islands of La Graciosa, El Hierro and La Gomera and Formentera, which have been given permission to open early on May 4, have already said they plan to stay closed due to lack of business. 

Spain's hotel chiefs have warned they won't be able to afford to reopen after coronavirus lockdown ends unless British holidaymakers are allowed to return. Pictured: A Torremolinos restaurant shows what life cold be like for diners at the end of lockdown as it showcases screen between tables

Spain’s hotel chiefs have warned they won’t be able to afford to reopen after coronavirus lockdown ends unless British holidaymakers are allowed to return. Pictured: A Torremolinos restaurant shows what life cold be like for diners at the end of lockdown as it showcases screen between tables 

Meanwhile The Mallorca Hotel Business Federation has warned that the Balearics ‘absolutely depend on arrivals by air’ and opening without tourists from other European countries is ‘just not feasible’. 

Hotels will need to spend millions to ensure compliance with government health guidelines while also reducing capacity to ensure social distancing.

While the Tourism Ministry has not yet outlined measures for the hotel industry, it has given guidance for shopping centres – giving a guide as to what can be expected.

They will include: Floor marks to show safe spacing, partitions between staff and customers, hand sanitizing stations, increased cleaning services, support for card payments, use of CCTV and security to enforce measures, no activities that encourage people to gather and a system to count people in and out to avoid crowds. 

Jorge Marichal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations, said the government has not told hoteliers how to manage the health crisis when guests start to arrive

Jorge Marichal, president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations, said the government has not told hoteliers how to manage the health crisis when guests start to arrive

Spain has been leading calls for a pan-European effort to restart tourism, but it is expected to be among the most difficult to get back to pre-crisis levels. 

Even if Spain reopens its own borders, it will rely on other countries restarting flights and allowing their own citizens to leave in order to be effective. 

The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations (CEHAT) has also voiced major disappointment that the government has not told hoteliers what they need to do, what guidelines they should follow and how to manage the health crisis when guests start to arrive.

President Jorge Marichal said: ‘Tourist accommodation establishments such as hotels, apartments, resorts, hostels, camping sites, spas, which the Confederation represents, don’t know how to proceed with this opening and it will not be viable either in the vast majority of hotel facilities. 

‘We need to be told exactly how to proceed with the opening and what measures will be necessary.’

He said hoteliers could only afford to make all the sanitary arrangements if there was ‘authorised reasonable mobility.’

‘If we do not have free movement, with all the necessary control measures, we will not action protocols,’ Mr. Marichal added and, referring to the 70 per cent decrease required in occupation, he added: ‘This is useless. We simply cannot open.’

He said despite the disappointment, hoteliers would not ‘throw in the towel’ and would ‘continue to work to save tourism in this country.’

In Benidorm and on the Costa Blanca, the hotel association HOSBEC said the government’s de-escalation plan must not become a ‘concrete-filled lifebuoy for tourism’.

President, Toni Mayor said: ‘In the conditions that President Sánchez has proposed, the opening of hotel establishments in these de-escalation phases is very complicated: on the one hand, because the limitations of capacity and services are hardly compatible with the tourist activity itself and, on the other hand, because it allows hotels to be opened without at the same time allowing the displacement of clients and tourists, which is a manifest inconsistency.’

‘Thus, the first conclusion we draw from the government plan is that the hotel activity that allows the de-escalation phases is very minimal. 

‘In addition, the uncertainty goes even beyond the end of phase III scheduled for the end of June: without international air operations, there will be no tourism that recovers or activity that can guarantee a return to normality at reasonable levels.’

Without more financial help, Hosbec warns of ‘a cascade of layoffs, destruction of employment and even bankruptcy proceedings among hundreds of tourist companies.’

A mother and her son relax on a usually-crowded beach in Malaga, Spain, after children were allowed to go outside but hotels remain closed

A mother and her son relax on a usually-crowded beach in Malaga, Spain, after children were allowed to go outside but hotels remain closed

A deserted beach in Ibiza, Spain, as international tourists are banned due to coronavirus

A deserted beach in Ibiza, Spain, as international tourists are banned due to coronavirus

Benidorm’s Mayor, Toni Perez said despite the difficulties, hoteliers had to offer health safety guarantees so they could win tourists back, wherever they came from.

Hoteliers in Mallorca and Ibiza have also voiced concern that it isn’t worth opening unless there are international tourists.

‘The de-escalation plan does not solve at all how to proceed to the opening of hotel establishments. The conditions in which it is posed are unfeasible, although they give a false impression of back to the new normal,’ said a spokesman for the Mallorca Hotel Business Federation.

‘It is much worse in the case of the Balearic archipelago where we absolutely depend on arrivals by air and our majority issuing markets come from European countries. Reopening of hotels is just not feasible.’

Spain recorded its lowest daily coronavirus death tally in six weeks on Thursday, but data showing the economy shrank by the widest margin on record in the first three months of the year laid bare the heavy cost of measures to control the outbreak.

Spain has had one of the world’s worst outbreaks with more than 24,000 COVID-19 fatalities and in mid-March imposed one of the strictest lockdowns, though officials are confident the worst has passed and want to start easing measures next week.

Across the country, devastated businesses are contemplating how to return to normal in an environment where meticulous hygiene and social distancing will be of paramount importance.

‘They force us to take measures – but it is impossible to get what they ask for,’ said Livia Patare, a hairdresser on the Canary Islands who can open on Monday. ‘Yesterday I went crazy going to pharmacies and establishments looking for gloves.’

Canary Islands, Tenerife, during lockdown. Spain hasn't yet specified when international tourism will be able to resume with no dates yet set for the opening of ports and airports. International travel is expected to be last on the agenda after local, regional and national holidaymakers

Canary Islands, Tenerife, during lockdown. Spain hasn’t yet specified when international tourism will be able to resume with no dates yet set for the opening of ports and airports. International travel is expected to be last on the agenda after local, regional and national holidaymakers

Beaches and hotels lie empty in a tourism sector that is one of the biggest contributors to the economy. Another big driver, construction and real estate, is at a standstill after only just recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.

‘This crisis will be worse for hotel workers than 2009 was for construction. At least then we still had tourism,’ said Francisco Rullan, who works at a hotel on the holiday island of Mallorca.

The number of fatalities related to the coronavirus recorded overnight in Spain fell to 268, the lowest since March 20, according to the health ministry. Cases rose to 213,435 – in a population of 47 million – from 212,917 the day before.

Spain’s economy shrunk by 5.2% in the first quarter compared to the previous period, preliminary data showed, with household spending plunging 7.5% as people hunkered down at home with most shops, bars and restaurants closed in March.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez outlined a four-phase plan to lift the lockdown with a planned return to normality by end-June.

Under the plan, hairdressers and other businesses that operate via appointment will open from Monday, while restaurants will be able to offer takeaway services.

By the end of June, beaches will be able to reopen.

Different areas of the country will progress through the stages at different rates depending on how the rate of infection evolves and other criteria like compliance with social distancing rules.

SPAIN’S FOUR-POINT PLAN 

Preparatory Phase 0 (May 4-11)

– Hairdressers and other businesses that offer service by appointment can reopen.

– Restaurants can offer take-away services.

– Professional sports leagues will go back to training.

– Short walks and individual sporting activities allowed starting on May 2.

Phase 1 (starting May 11, will take about two weeks) 

– Small businesses to reopen under strict safety conditions.

– Bars and restaurants can reopen their terraces with no more than 30% occupation.

– Hotels and other tourist accommodation can reopen, excluding common areas.

– Shops and other service providers must set aside preferential times for customers aged over 65 to visit.

– Places of worship will also be reopened, limiting the capacity to one third.

Phase 2 (starting late May, will take about two weeks)

– Theatres and cinemas to reopen, filling no more than a third of their capacity.

– Cultural centres such as art galleries and museums will reopen, again operating only at a third of regular capacity.

– Places of worship will increase their capacity to 50%.

– Hunting and sport-fishing will be allowed.

– Some schools will reopen, though most will stay closed until September.

Phase 3 (starting end of June)

– Shops will be allowed to open at half capacity with distancing of 2 meters between clients.

– Restrictions on restaurants and bars will be further loosened.

– Opening of beaches.

 

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