Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainThe Spanish Economy: The (very) bad news
- It’s now clear that Coronavirus histeria is going to disrupt life and the economy for at least a few months over the peak sales period of the Spanish second-home market, creating another headwind for a market already struggling to move forward.
- Tourism is 10% of GDP in France, 13% in Italy, 15% in Spain. And now it’s in free fall. If the situation of generalized panic continues, thousands of businesses, especially small ones, will first enter a liquidity crisis, then close their doors. Click here for the full article or see the section on Spain below.
- I guess Spain won't be immune from these changes. And who the hell should be kissing statues anyway?
- Down here in Valencia*, I'm pleased to find the local accent is nowhere near as difficult as that of not-far-away Andalucia. Mind you, the woman to whom I said this replied that she was Italian. In a London English accent.
- And I must say the service levels of restaurant and hotel staff here in Jávea have been much higher than in places with a heavy tourism element in the local economy. Possibly this is because there's clearly a large year-round community of (better quality) Dutch and British residents, who really might come back to the place.
- Nice story from a Galician lady we met last night . . . At the town hall, an official had spoken to her only in Valencia. After he'd finished, she spoke entirely in Galician. When he complained that he hadn't understood her, she replied 'Snap' and they then continued in Castellano.
- Last night we attended an excellent concert of baroque music (mostly Vivaldi) in Jávea's main church. Normally, I'd be unhappy about a huge crucifix and a dying Jesus hanging from the ceiling but the music was an effective distraction from the Catholic obsession with agony and death. I was amused to note that the musicians numbered 13. Or 12 +1. Which I thought very apt for an RC church, being the number of Last Supper attendees.
- And then I had the more lugubrious thought that, some of the audience being in their 80s, it might not be much longer before they meet their maker. If he exists.
- I'll probably regret writing that, if I pop my own clogs. In a place fittingly full of Dutch folk . . . Where there's a café called Casa de Holanda and an eating place/bar called Bocadillos Holandeses.
- Take a second to imagine an eatery called British Sandwiches. Or Greggs, perhaps.
- Italy learns to love in the time of coronavirus. New rules to limit social contact are putting Italians on edge. Click here for details.
- Word of the Day: Bocadillo: Open sandwich.
- * There are 3 Valencias - a city, a province and a region (autonomous community). Bloody confusing.
- I have to issue a public apology to my sister, who I didn't think - like my daughters - ever read my blog . . . . But she possibly needs a lift back to Madrid, so has forgiven me.
In Spain, tourism is even more important to the national economy, generating approximately €180 billion a year — close to 15% of GDP. In 2019, Spain was the second most visited country in the world, attracting 83.7 million foreign tourists.
In Barcelona, thousands of tourist-dependent companies have already had to forego the lucrative spoils provided by the Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest annual mobile trade that last year attracted 100,000 people from all over the world, generated around 14,000 temporary jobs, and produced close to €500 million in revenues for the City. But this year, the event was cancelled after dozens of participating companies pulled out over fears about the coronavirus.
The virus has also been a big blow for the city’s luxury and jewelry sectors. Until recently, Chinese visitors accounted for around 40% of all purchases on the Paseo de Gràcia promenade. Last year alone, those purchases grew by 16%. February and March are normally the busiest months for arrivals from China, Japan and South Korea. But this year, they are conspicuously absent. According to some forecasts, the luxury stores on Paseo de Gràcia, which pay eye-watering sums in monthly rent, could suffer a 50% decline in sales as a result.
As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in Spain rises, attention is turning to Easter, one of the busiest weeks for the nation’s tourism industry. That industry was already battered by the collapse late last year of the global tour operator Thomas Cook, which prompted the government to bail out the sector. But that wasn’t enough to prevent consecutive year-on-year drops in the number of tourist arrivals in both December and January. In the destination most dependent on Thomas Cook bookings, the Canary Islands, tourist arrivals fell by 5% year over year in January.
That was before the Coronavirus had officially arrived in Europe. Now that it is spreading at an alarming rate, March has been all but written off by Spain’s tourism industry. The initial signs for Easter are not good either. Hotel bookings last week were down by a fifth on the same week last year. In the Canary Islands, they’re down by as much as 30%. Sources from the industry have also detected a year-on-year collapse of almost 40% in the number of Internet searches for flights, trips and hotels.
But the good news is that your flights to and from Madrid will be virtually empty.