Around fifty souvenir shop workers from all over the province met in Plaza de la Constitución in Malaga on Tuesday demanding help to save their sector. Chanting "Without help, we are condemned," the group complained that they have been forgotten during the coronavirus crisis. Central to their aims is being recognised as part of the tourist sector in order to receive government aid to cope with the ongoing situation.
During the event, representatives from the newly created National Association for Tourist and Souvenir Businesses noted that the problems facing souvenir shops at the moment stem from confusion in how they have been officially classified. Until now, most have been registered as hardware stores or homeware shops, making them ineligible for subsidies afforded to the tourism industry.
Revenue in some shops has dropped by 95% and the Association’s Malaga spokesperson Miguel Ángel Gómez explained that this is down to a lack of tourists visiting from outside the area.
He commented: "If someone visits somewhere else in their home province, they’re not going to buy a souvenir in the shops."
Although no data is available at a provincial level, Gómez pointed out the size of the souvenir sector at a national level, revealing that there 7,000 stores across Spain providing work for over 30,000 people. He added: “Souvenirs are a big thing for anyone who comes to Spain- these shops are the first thing they see when they arrive at our airports or train stations.”
Julia Pérez is a typical example of a souvenir shop worker struggling to make ends meet at the moment. Her shop, Souvenirs4You, is located in La Carihuela in Torremolinos - a tourist hotspot in normal times. However, some days she now sells nothing. She remarks: “I’m basically just opening the shop to get out of the house, as nobody is buying anything.”
It’s a similar story for Rafael Rojas, who runs Rondando Souvenirs based in Ronda. Before the pandemic, the company had five stores in Ronda and four in Seville. Now, two stores in Ronda are the only ones that remain open.
With revenue currently less than €50 a day in the remaining stores, he stressed: "We want to be recognised as part of the tourism sector, because we’re a very important part of it."