The cancellation of the huge annual Malaga Fair, due to have been held this week, has dealt another massive blow to the city's tourism sector and brings with it an estimated loss of more than 60 million euros, according to the latest figures published by the city council.
Bars and restaurants estimate that income will be more than 60 per cent lower than for the same period last year, while hotels, usually close to full occupancy during this week, are barely half full. Some haven't even opened.
The president of the Hoteliers Association of Malaga (Mahos), Javier Frutos, says that the losses "are tremendous" and explains that this fall in activity not only affects employers and workers directly but also many other sectors: "Suppliers, distributors, taxi drivers, hoteliers and all those who live from tourism are all losing out. I know that there are businesses that have closed due to the pandemic and others that are on the brink."
New measures recently brought in, such as the ban on smoking if you can't keep a minimum distance of two metres or the closure of bars at 1am, has added "uncertainty" to the hospitality industry, a sector that relies heavily on the fair: "There are three massive periods: Easter, the Feria and Christmas. All of them are needed for businesses to end the year with any profits."
Request for aid
The week of the fair is the most profitable for hotels in Malaga, a sector which is calling for a public aid package similar to that granted to the banks a decade ago (around 65 billion euros).
Especially delicate is the situation of the hundreds of fairground stallholders and ride owners in Malaga province. Their association's president, Rafael Blázquez, is calling on town halls to exempt them from taxes such as vehicle tax and IBI now that almost every event in which they were going to participate in the province has been cancelled.
The Feria de Málaga was for many "the first chance to make any money" this year as previous events covered costs and little else.
Blázquez criticises town halls for their lack of will in facilitating summer events that could comply with the health regulations. "It's just the same as in an amusement park and yet they're allowed to open," he says.
The cancellation of the fair also has an "emotional" impact, says Malaga city councillor for Festivities, Teresa Porras. "But given the recommendations of the health authorities we had no choice."
But will there be a fair in August 2021? Porras is clear: "Of course. And we'll have to celebrate it twice as much."