THE BOTTOM LINE
When a hotel opens, the area around it is almost spontaneously revitalised. Likewise, when one closes, even for a few months, it has a devastating effect on local shops, bars and restaurants. That's why the spine-chilling forecast that 80 per cent of hotels will close for the winter is likely to have a major impact on the economy of the province.
The knock-on effect of tourism has yet to be seen and its consequences will be measured in loss of wealth and employment. Not even the hotels that stayed open or the busiest resorts have been spared the Covid-19 crisis. The sector sees no sign of the decision to stop tourists coming 'sine die' being reversed. The times in which we are living make it more inviting to save companies and jobs than to take risks.
And how have we come to be in this situation? Well, the general answer is that there is no demand. Occupancy levels are at a minimum, even though prices are starting to touch rock-bottom. Recommendations by countries such as Germany, Holland, Belgium and Denmark not to travel to Spain, and the UK's quarantine on travellers coming from Spain, have taken the sector to the limit.
There is no activity from tour operators, no bookings from the clients who always come in winter, because most of them are retired Europeans and are now too scared to leave their homes, and little in the way of leisure options to tempt brave souls who would like to travel. In addition, there are continual last-minute cancellations and events and conferences are being called off.
The Costa has entered a tunnel which, at the moment, appears to have no end. Experts say the authorities should have anticipated this situation and carried out massive testing before departure and upon arrival as the only way of selling safety after the borders reopened, not when peak tourist season is over for most Spanish destinations; they are only trying to save this situation now with rapid testing at airports in the Canary Islands.
The sector has felt abandoned and the government has been stabbing in the dark, the consequences of which will be seen later on.
The winter closure is just the first step in an unprecedented crisis which will get worse as companies fail to cope with the debts incurred during three months of enforced closure and a disastrous peak season with occupancy levels lower than the quietest months of the year.
Some have no idea when they will reopen, because they don't know whether in 2021 there will be Holy Week celebrations or not, whether there will be a peak season or not, or whether the Malaga Fair will take place again or not.
The virus is incompatible with tourism, even though the sector has invested in looking after visitors and its employees. The zero contagion figures in hotels speak for themselves. Now the administrations and businesses will need to work hard together to get over this. They need to start now, and to do it with determination and purpose.