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Summer season still in doubt as tourism sector counts losses and plans recovery

Hire cars left standing near Malaga Airport during the lockdown.
Hire cars left standing near Malaga Airport during the lockdown. / ÑITO SALAS
  • National government hasn't yet said when travel will be authorised again; the Andalusian region has announced its own emergency recovery plan

Alarm bells were already keeping tourism business owners awake at night, but when a government minister said last Friday that the industry would not get going again until the end of the year, they were filled with dread.

"No tourism business can go ten months without income," said Miguel Sánchez, who represents tourism firms at the Andalusian Business Confederation, "They won't get through this."

Fears of losing the vital summer season completely due to the coronavirus crisis were heightened by Employment minister Yolanda Díaz, who spoke last week of two phases of getting back to business in the country. The first was for the productive sector in June; and tourism, culture and leisure were included in the second phase, reserved for the end of the year.

Since then, however, Finance minister, Nadia Calviño, admitted that central government has no "official calendar" for the restoration of the tourism sector.

After last Tuesday's Cabinet meeting she said that she "hoped" that the summer season would be able to go ahead.

And on Thursday, Andalusian regional minister for Tourism, Juan Marín, was more confident. "We are working on a plan that it will be reasonable to open certain activity in May," he said, adding that hotels could open in June.

The European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Thierry Breton, also had reassuring words for the industry this week: "I certainly hope that we can start travelling again, despite the restrictions, as soon as this summer," he said.

Meanwhile the authorities have been counting their losses. Andalucía lost out on income to the tune of 4.7 billion euros between March and May due to the absence of tourism activity, Juan Marín said earlier this week.

If the tourism season could not start until September, the worst case scenario of those envisaged by the Junta de Andalucía in a previous report, the region would have lost out on a total of 13.3 billion euros having missed Easter and the peak summer season.

Nevertheless, Andalucía and the Costa del Sol are working on plans to get tourism back on its feet as soon as possible, although any progress is governed by the national state of alarm restrictions.

Marín offered more information about the emergency plan the Junta de Andalucía is setting up for the tourism industry.

Always bearing in mind the uncertainty and continual changes caused by the Covid-19 crisis, Marín has told professionals that his regional ministry's strategy includes measures that are estimated to have a positive impact of 243 million euros on the tourism sector and 740 million euros on Andalucía's economy as a whole. These measures include employment incentives, credit and liquidity plans for businesses and tax incentives, explained Marín.

The regional authority's recovery strategy also includes a 2.25-million-euro spend on tourism promotion for Andalucía, explained the minister.