As Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that come July foreign arrivals to Spain would no longer have to spend 14 days in quarantine, his message to tourists was clear: “We’re waiting for you”.
The news appears to have been met with excitement by the British tabloids, the Daily Mail running the story with the headline: “Back to Benidorm in JULY!”.
However, Spanish hotel and tourism groups don’t appear to be quite as enthusiastic about the return of hundreds of thousands if not millions of foreign visitors on cheap package deals, despite the fact that Spain’s all-important tourism industry has lost at least €20 billion as a result of its lockdown.
“We now have the opportunity to change the all-inclusive model,” Giuseppe Russo of Puerto Banús’s Business Association in Marbella told regional daily Málaga Hoy.
According to the group, the country’s tourism brand should return to seasonality and focus on higher-spending national tourists rather than on crowds of foreign visitors binge drinking and eating on the cheap.
“The current model is all about stag-dos and hen parties, uncontrolled drunkenness and it attracts a type of person who is a safety hazard”, Russo argued, adding that in August it’s hard to find space to walk along the port’s promenade.
“This is discrediting Puerto de Banús’s brand and its reputation.
“A business model overhaul is an unavoidable step that will have to be designed with new parameters, technologies and capital.
“We want people to come to have a single drink and pay more for it. We don’t want groups of naked or topless ladies and men to come and get drunk anymore.”
Despite this desire for meaningful change- even in the face of two-and-a-half months of crippling economic losses – British package holiday providers appear to have already jumped on the chance to return to the old status quo.
Since Sánchez’s announcement, a number of companies have started offering cheap holiday packages in alcohol-fuelled hotspots such as Magaluf in Majorca, Benidorm and Las Americas in Tenerife.
In the case of Magaluf, the Balearic regional government passed a decree in January which banned most forms of alcohol-fuelled tourism on the Mediterranean islands, from booze cruises to free bars and vending machines which sell alcohol.
Based on what is included in their deals, British tour operators looking to restart business as usual in Spain in July appear to be overlooking this piece of legislation.
Spanish hotel and catering businesses with a link to this type of tourism now find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
Do they accept a return to the unpopular old model as a more fireproof return to economic recovery or do they instead pursue a new type of quality tourism which could help restore their towns’ reputations?
Economically-speaking, tourism was Spain’s most important sector accounting for almost 15 percent of the country’s GDP and providing 2.8 million people with work before the Covid-19 outbreak.
With the most positive forecast suggesting Spain won’t recover the jobs lost during the lockdown until 2025, is now the right time for a partial overhaul of its cheap tourism model?