Spain unveils €4 billion aid package to save tourism sector

Spain unveils €4 billion aid package to save tourism sector
Photos: AFP
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced a 4.25 billion-euro ($4.75 billion) aid package in a bid to save Spain’s stricken tourism industry as the country emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

The announcement of the new measures came as Spain scraps quarantine measures and prepares to reopen its borders to tourists from across the European Union from Sunday.

“The good news is that thanks to how the epidemic has evolved, we’ve been able to move forward the re-opening of our borders,” Sanchez insisted on Thursday when he announced the new package.

The 4.25-billion euro aid package includes €2.5 billion of provisions already included in a state loan guarantee programme (ICO) for companies working in the tourism industry.

But it also includes €200 million set aside for spending on cleaning and safety measures required to keep tourists safe from coronavirus and will introduce a “Covid Safe” badge for businesses that meet hygiene specifications.

The package also earmarks €859m in loans towards digitalization, modernization and transformation to renewable energy sources.

“It is time to reactivate and to stimulate the tourism sector,” Sánchez stressed. “Tourism is a strategic sector for our country. It is the backbone of our country and is a central part of our way of life. Tourism in Spain is not just something for others, it is ours.”

The measures also offer a moratorium on mortgage-loan repayments for tourism businesses suffering losses as a result of the lockdown and subsequent slow start to the tourism season.

More than 147,000 companies in the tourism sector have already taken advantage of a furloughing scheme known in Spain as ERTE which is currently in place until June 30th although the government is under pressure to extend it.

The government announced the creation of a new “observatory” of tourism intelligence as part of the stimulus plan and a PR campaign to promote a safe Spain that will be officially launched in the presence of Spain’s King and Queen later on Thursday.

The measures are designed to kickstart a tourism sector which drew more than 80 million visitors last year and is responsible for 12 percent of the nation’s GDP.

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