The first half of September has seen a massive closure of hotels on the Costa del Sol, with no one daring to suggest a reopening date.
The area's tourism industry has been hit from all sides during the pandemic: demand for hotel accommodation plummeted when quarantine restrictions were imposed by key countries such as the UK; and the financial situation of Spanish families, with thousands of workers still on furlough schemes and companies failing to survive the pandemic, has kept away national visitors.
This year's disaster comes just as tourism figures for the month of September were picking up. During this month last year 72% of the Costa's hotel rooms were full, and with higher-spending tourists. This year the month's occupancy is expected to be no more than 23%, according to the Costa del Sol hoteliers' association, Aehcos.
The hotels that have already closed their doors this month include numerous Costa icons that have never before closed during the low season: the Pez Espada, the Alay, the Meliá Costa del Sol and the MS Amaragua are among them.
Aehcos president Luis Callejón Suñé has described the situation as critical, and said that around 80% of the Costa's hotels are likely to remain closed this winter season. In recent years, as the industry made progress towards reducing the gap between summer and winter seasons, the percentage was the other way round, with only 20% closed.
This year the hotels have not ventured a date for their reopening; as with everything, the pandemic will decide.
"The virus and tourism are incompatible," said Callejón Suñé.
For many this summer season has been little more than one month long. The Alay hotel in Benalmádena reopened on 1 July and closed on 1 September, but commercial director Álvaro Reyes pointed out that August was more like November.
"There's no demand. That's the reality. We've never closed in winter. We hope to be able to reopen on 1 March," he said.
The Med Playa group has also confirmed the closure of its Costa del Sol flagship, the Pez Espada.
"There's no reopening date," said a spokesperson.
Meanwhile the last guests checked out of the Meliá Costa del Sol on Monday.
"The forecasts were bleak. Since 1976 we have never closed, but this situation is unheard of," said director Carlos Franco, who hopes to open "at the first opportunity".
Similarly, the CEO of the local MS hotel chain, Miguel Sánchez, has also closed the two establishments of his four on the Costa that he reopened after the lockdown. The MS Amaragua closed on Thursday last week and the Pepita apartments in Benalmádena on Friday.
"Nothing's moving and we have to think about saving businesses and jobs," said Sánchez, who predicted that after this weekend few hotels on the Costa del Sol will be still open.