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TOURISM

Imserso: Everything to know about Spain’s cheap holiday scheme for pensioners

Here's how foreign pensioners in Spain can benefit from the Imserso programme, where they can travel to, who can apply and how much it will cost them.

Imserso: Everything to know about Spain's cheap holiday scheme for pensioners
How pensioners can get cheap holidays in Spain. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP

What is the Imserso programme?

Imserso is a social scheme offering holidays to the elderly. It aims to offer subsidised trips to pensioners in order to help them improve their quality of life and health, as well as to reduce their dependency on others.

It also contributes to the maintenance of employment and economic activity, alleviating employment issues in the tourism sector during low season. 

Which foreigners can access Spain’s Imserso scheme?

Foreigners residing in Spain who meet any of the following requirements may participate in the Imserso tourism programme:

  • A person who is retired and part of the Spanish public pension system.
  • A widow’s or widower’s pensioner who is 55 or older.
  • A recipient of unemployment benefits or subsidies, aged 60 or older.
  • A holder or beneficiary of Spain’s Social Security System, aged 65 or older.

How and when can I apply?

The best way to apply is online via the Inserso website which you can access here

You will need your [email protected], digital certificate or NIE in order to apply this way.

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You can also apply in person at the offices of the Imserso Tourism Programme. Find out from your local town hall where they are in your region, or you can also check under the Atención Presencial category here. Under the section Documentos you will be able to download the application form. 

You will need to provide documentation and proof of your identity, residency status in Spain and details of your Spanish pension and social security payments, so make sure to have them to hand when you’re filling out the form.

Applications for the scheme must be presented each summer, the deadline for this year was between July 1st and 30th. This means that next year’s places will open for applications for holidays during the 2022/2023 season next summer.

How does it work?

Acceptance to the Imserso programme depends on various factors. Those who are older, have small financial resources, are part of a large family, have a degree of disability or who have never participated in the scheme before, will be given priority.

Applicants who haven’t been on a holiday in a while and those who are willing to travel in low season, will also be given priority.

People who apply may be accompanied by their spouse or, where appropriate, by a common-law partner or person with whom a stable and living union is established, without the need for them to meet the requirements of age or pension.

You may also be accompanied by children with disabilities as long as they travel with you and stay in the same room or if not, you will be required to pay a supplement for additional rooms.

How much will it cost me?

The Imserso programme is designed to subsidise holidays for pensioners and allow you to travel very cheaply. Depending on the dates you go and the type of accommodation you stay in, you will usually have to pay between €115 and €405 for the trip.

This will include your accommodation on either a full or half board basis, as well as transportation (except to provincial capitals), group insurance policy and a socio-cultural programme.

It should be noted that prices may be reduced for people who have economic resources equal to or less than the amount of non-contributory retirement and disability pensions in social security.

What type of holidays can I go on and where?

There are several different types of holidays you can choose as part of the programme. These include:

  • Coastal areas on mainland Spain: Stays of between eight to 10 days in either Catalonia, Andalusia, Murcia or Valencia regions.
  • Spain’s islands: Stays of between eight to 10 days in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.
  • Spain’s interior: Stays of four, five or six days in the interior of Spain, following the themes of culture, nature or provincial capitals.
  • The cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

There’s also a hydrotherapy Imserso programme, allowing the elderly access to spas around the country. The same requisites apply as in the regular programme. 

READ ALSO: Healthcare in Spain: the steps to apply for the S1 form for UK state pensioners

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MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

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Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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