Can Spain really become ‘Europe’s Hollywood’ as PM suggests?

Whilst on an official visit to the United States, Spain’s Prime Minister has pitched his country as the perfect backdrop for blockbuster American productions, but can Spain get round its reputation as a bureaucratic nightmare among international movie and series producers?

Can Spain really become 'Europe's Hollywood' as PM suggests?
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during his visit to the United States in July 2021. Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP

“We aim to become, and we have been named in some media, and if you allow the comparison, the Hollywood of Europe,” Pedro Sánchez told guests at a meeting with American audiovisual giants in Los Angeles on Thursday.

“Numerous providers of cross-border TV channels that were established in the UK before Brexit have now moved their operations to Spain,” the Spanish Prime Minister explained.

“Among them our hosts today NBC Universal, Sony, Disney, just to name a few.  

“Spain has all the necessary administrative and tax incentives, as well as all possible landscapes and backdrops to receive new projects and create new narratives.

Does Spain do enough to convince Hollywood?

Spain has been the movie set of numerous film classics such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars and more recently hugely popular franchise productions including Fast and the Furious and Game of Thrones. 

But Spain is also reported to have lost out on several big Hollywood shoots due to its slow and complex bureaucratic processes, for example not issuing visas quickly enough for film crew members who are American or from another non-EU country.

In some cases, actors, makeup artists, producers and other film crew had to be able to prove they had three years of experience, have a recognised degree or show they had a contract longer than three months with the audiovisual company to be eligible for a visa. 

A scene from Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, shot in Seville’s Plaza de España. Photo: Screenshot

Slowly but surely, Spain is realising how its outdated and convoluted official processes and strict requirements for foreigners do not correspond with the reality and demands of a fast-paced international job market, especially for an industry as demanding as Hollywood’s.  

During his meeting with the US’s top studios, Sánchez outlined his government’s plans to allocate €1.6 billion ($1.88 billion) to boost Spain’s audiovisual sector, including tax incentives for international production houses that relocate to Spain. 

If carried out in practice, this would mean Spain’s audiovisual industry would grow by 30 percent in the next four years.

In early July, Spain’s Migrations Department also sent instructions to simplify and fastrack the granting of permits and visas for all workers who come to Spain to shoot series, movies or advertisements. 

Will all this be enough to convince Hollywood to turn to Spain?

If recent reports are anything to go on, Greece is currently the European country that’s garnering the attention of big-money American productions. 

After the 2016 Jason Bourne was shot in Spain’s Canary Islands when the film was set in Athens – all in the name of tax deductions –  the Greek government reacted by introducing a law to attract international productions with a tax rebate of 40 percent on all manner of expenses.

As a result, more than 70 major international productions have chosen the Hellenic nation, pumping millions into the Greek economy.

It seems Spain is late to the party, but it’s still a worthy competitor, as the Game of Thrones prequel “House of the Dragon” (shooting in Spain in autumn) suggests. 

How important is Hollywood to Spain’s economy?

According to data from Spain’s Secretary of State, one of the world’s leading production companies will invest almost €362 million in the filming of scenes from 33 series and 18 films in the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Madrid, Aragon, Catalonia, Navarra, the Balearic Islands and Valencia.

So there’s certainly the potential for big cash injections into the Spanish economy, although as seen in Greece in recent productions, jobs don’t always go to locals as fast-tracked visas means Hollywood directors bring more of their own crew over. 

Around 668,000 people in Spain work in the film, video, radio and TV industry, according to 2020 data by the country’s Ministry of Culture, a sector that’s among the hardest hit in Spain as a result of the pandemic. 

That’s not counting the catering, transport and other businesses that make money indirectly from multimillion-dollar productions. 

Between 2015 and 2018, Spain ranked fifth in the European Union in content creation, at the same level as Italy and Sweden, but behind the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The entertainment industry also has the potential to boost tourism as has happened in the Basque Country thanks to Game of Thrones.

But the reaction by the majority of Spaniards has been of frustration with Pedro Sánchez’s ‘Hollywood’ allusion, for whom the focus should be on fixing local work issues without having to promote Spain abroad.


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Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it’s second hand

A combination of supply and demand problems caused by the pandemic and a lack of microchips is making cars much harder to come by in Spain. Here's why you should perhaps consider holding off on buying that vehicle you had in mind for now.

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it's second hand

Getting your hands on a car – new, second hand, or even rental – is becoming much harder and more expensive in Spain.

The car industry has been hit by a perfect storm of conditions that have made new cars harder to come by and, as a result, caused prices to rapidly increase. 

According to Spain’s main consumer organisation, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), the microchip crisis affecting the entire globe, combined with an overall increase in the price of materials needed for car manufacturing and increased carbon emissions legislation has created a shortage of new cars in the country.

New cars

With less cars being manufactured, prices of new cars have gone up: a recent OCU report reports that new car prices have increased by 35 percent, higher even than Spain’s record breaking inflation levels in recent months. 

READ ALSO: Rate of inflation in Spain reaches highest level in 37 years

It is a shortage of microchips and semiconductors – a global problem – that has caused car production in Spain to plummet. In the first eight months of 2021, for example, production fell by 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

This is not a uniquely Spanish problem, however. The entire world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, something essential to car manufacturing as each car needs between 200 to 400 microchips.

France’s car exports, for example, have fallen by 23.3 percent, Germany’s by 27 percent, and the UK’s by 27.5 percent.

Simply put, with less cars being produced and specialist and raw materials now more expensive, the costs are being passed onto consumers the world over.

Equally, these industry-specific problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.The average wait for a car to be delivered in Spain is now around four months, double what it was before the pandemic, and depending on the make and model you buy, it can be as long as a year.

Car dealerships across Spain were forced to sell cars during the pandemic to stay afloat, and now, when consumers want to purchase new cars, they don’t have enough to sell and can’t buy enough to keep up with demand due to the materials shortages that have kneecapped production.

Second-hand cars

With the scarcity and increased prices in the new car market, the effect is also being felt in the second-hand car market too. With many in Spain emerging from the pandemic facing precarious financial situations, then compounded by spiralling inflation in recent months, one would assume many would go for a cheaper, second hand option.

Yet, even second-hand prices are out of control. In Spain, the price of used cars have risen by 17 percent on average so far in 2022.

Cars 15 years old or more are 36 percent more expensive than they were in the first half of last year. The average price of a 15 year old car is now €3,950 but in 2021 was just €2,900 – a whopping increase of 36 percent.

As production has decreased overall, purchases of used models up to three years old have declined by 38.3 percent. Purchases of cars over 15 years old, on the other hand, have surged by 10.4 percent.

If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car in Spain, keep in mind that the reduced production and scarcity of new models is causing second-hand prices to shoot up.

Rental cars

These problems in car manufacturing have even passed down to car rentals and are affecting holidaymakers in Spain.

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this summer, unless they book well in advance and are willing to fork out a lot of money.

Over the past two years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

READ ALSO: Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have a scarcity 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.

End in sight?

With the microchip shortage expected to last until at least 2023, possibly even until 2024, it seems that the best course of action if you’re looking to buy a new or used car in Spain is to wait, let the market resettle, and wait for prices to start going down again.

If you’re hoping to rent a car when holidaying in Spain, be sure to book well in advance.