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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nbr. 361)

Business over Tapas (Nbr. 361)

  • A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

jueves 30 de julio de 2020, 22:56h

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Editorial:

Spanish tourism, or the art of putting all one’s eggs in the same basket, has taken another massive knock this week from the slightly odd British decision to oblige all those who come from Spain, returning tourists included, to spend fourteen days in self-quarantine – or (in a later tweak) maybe just ten days, if arrivals test negative for the virus.

Another group inconvenienced by the sudden decision are those Spaniards resident in the UK who are either in Spain at the moment, or were planning to visit their family and friends in the coming weeks.

There were only a few hours of warning before Foreign Office advice for Britons to avoid Spain plus the quarantine obligation swung into place on midnight Saturday and despite repeated figures from Facebook warriors and elsewhere showing that more people were being diagnosed with Covid-19 in the UK than they were in Spain. Although in all fairness, Spain too has its moments.

Adding to the worry, the Anglo-German travel company TUI says that, for the moment, it has cancelled all Britons’ holidays to mainland Spain up to and including Sunday 9 August. Jet2 quickly followed suit, in their case until August 16th.

The Spanish are understandably concerned about losing most or all of the usual 5,000 million euros (2019 figures) that the Brits habitually spend on their Spanish hols. That’s 20% of all foreign visitors.

Norway, Belgium and France are all recommending their subjects to stay away from Spain at this time, adding more woes to the hoteliers. Later, Germany partially joined the boycott (warning against travel to Catalonia, Navarra and Aragón) on Tuesday.

It’s true that not much of this tourist windfall makes its way to the ordinary, interior bits of Spain, the places without interesting castles, museums, hot springs or wineries to visit. They must make do as they can, but the rest of the country, plus of course its coast and islands, clamour for more tourism each year – the one industry which sells you pleasure, and where the only things you take away in exchange for your cash are a pair of plastic castanets, a touch of sunburn, some stories to tell and a hangover to forget. Come, they say, spend your money (at our slight inconvenience), but then go home again until next time.

Someone who buys a house in a resort or maybe a moribund interior village, along with a car and who plans to live all year round, will clearly be spending a lot more than a visitor. But Spain doesn’t have a ministry or an agency or a budget for them, even though, in these times of pestilence and plague, settlers are more useful than ever to the Spanish exchequer.

For those Spaniards who work in the tourist sector – waiters, room-cleaners, barmen, tour-bus and taxi-drivers – the boycott means less work, more unemployment. For the owners of many pubs, discos and tee-shirt shops, already beaten down by the past few months, it can mean final closure.

Spain was hoping to persuade the British to allow returning visitors to the Canaries to be let off, with ‘safe corridors’ between the airports – and then, ‘what about us?’ simultaneously asked the Andalucía tourist minister and the Valencian president (here and here), ‘we are pretty safe too!’ they said.

In the end, briefly held talks with Spain on Monday about introducing air bridges with the Balearic and Canary Islands were quickly dismissed by the Foreign Office.

Tourism is a fickle master, as we must now realise.

Housing:

There’s another worry for property-owners, and that’s the ‘okupas’, the squatters, who appear to have unequalled rights in Spain. The Olive Press talks of 83,000 properties being used by squatters across the country last year. A reader asking to be anonymous says:

The illegal occupation of private homes in España is:

1º.- Damaging and worsening the international image of Spain.

2º.- Causing serious damage to residential tourism.

3º.- Decreasing the purchase of second-hand homes in Spain.

4º.- Increasing unemployment.

5º.- Creating insecurity for foreign owners of second residences in Spain.

From VozPópuli here, ‘'Squatting' shoots up in numbers and leaves hundreds of homeowners on the coast without holidays. The real estate sector is concerned about a phenomenon that, they claim, has registered an exponential increase in recent years.’ The article says ‘The main tourist destinations in Spain do not look the same this summer. Benidorm, Palma and other cities are in the middle of the summer 'at medium gas'. Taking advantage of the shortage of tourists, squatters have taken over some houses that, with the coronavirus crisis, had remained empty. Only a week ago, a British couple who were going to move to their chalet in Jávea (Alicante) had to cancel their trip after the cleaner found a group of squatters in the house…’.

From Foro para la Paz en el Mediterráneo here, ‘…Between January and June of this year, court complaints of occupations totalled 7,450 across Spain, an average of 47 complaints daily and it is probable that there are another 100,000 unreported “squats”, due to coercion and threats to the owners or because they are de facto abandoned properties, normally by financial entities. The economic crisis, the rising cost of housing, the inaction of the Administration and the impunity of the "squatters" suggest that this scourge will continue to grow…’.

How long would it take to rid your home of okupas, asks La Información here.

Tourism:

From The Guardian here, 'Everyone is panicking' as the UK quarantine decision shocks Britons in Spain. The requirement to self-isolate on return to Britain will further damage the Spanish tourism industry’. Wolf Street calls the decision a ‘hammer-blow’ for Spain’s tourist industry.

Before the British quarantine bombshell, El País in English visited the Canaries, already in red alert: ‘Spain’s Canary Islands feeling the absence of foreign tourists’, it said, “At the moment, not even 20% of Tenerife’s hotels are open.”…

Eye on Spain was saying on Friday ‘Flying to Spain: What you need to know before you set off’.

‘Ryanair pledge not to cancel flights’, says The Olive Press here.

Tourism, as above, is about the money rather than the welcome. Thus comes a bitter article from Huelva Información about a large number of mobile homes not using the designated campsites. Spaniards find sleeping in their own (or a rented) motor-home safer than a hotel, but the campsites are offended when they don’t use their services. ‘The law prohibits free camping and overnight stays for holiday use outside of establishments and regulated spaces. Campground businessmen are calling for control as they denounce "unfair competition"’.

A headline from La Vanguardia: ‘Mass tourism may be on its way out’. The General Secretary of the World Tourism Organization, based in Madrid, speaks in an interview regarding his forecast for tourism in the future.

Finance:

El Mundo says that ‘The British and Norwegian quarantines could cost 1.6 million jobs in the tourist and air-transport industries in Spain’.

From The Corner here: ‘The results of the Labour Force Survey (EPA in its Spanish acronym) for the second quarter of 2020 continue to reflect the situation arising from the pandemic. Employment fell by 1,074,000 persons in this period…’.

‘The traffic police are about to get even more efficient/officious at raising state revenue. They are basically an arm of the Hacienda now’. A quote from Colin Davis’ blog.

Politics:

The latest poll gives the PSOE another nudge upwards says La Vanguardia here. The CIS puts the PSOE up 4 points (since the November 2019 elections) to 32.1%. The PP up 0.4 to 21.2, Unidas Podemos now in third place, but down 0.8 points to 12.1% and Vox down 3.5 points to 11.6%.

For the past two months (and counting) every day has seen a crowd of ill-wishers outside the home of Pablo Iglesias, his wife Irene Montoro and their three small children. The small yet vocal crowd, often wrapped in Spanish flags, arrive daily for their harassment – known as un escrache – which is organised by the local Vox team, which provides recordings of ‘Cara al sol’, the fascist anthem. The free right of protest? Here’s a video of these protestors. On Wednesday, Iglesias finally made a formal complaint to the police.

El Español reckons that the British quarantine ploy is a reaction to the Spanish Foreign Minister’s ill-advised meeting with the First Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo last week.

Vox says it intends to propose a parliamentary motion of confidence during September. The PP say they will probably not support the moción de censura which, says Vox’ Santiago Abascal, is against the ‘nefarious and criminal government that only offers lies to the Spanish people’. El Mundo has the story. From Spanish Revolution we read that President Sánchez asked Santiago Abascal in Parliament (on Wednesday), ‘If we are so terrible, why are you waiting until September? Are you going on your holidays first?’. He then had this to say to Pablo Casado: ‘"Vox is going to be Vox, but what is the PP going to do? Will you play as Vox or as the Partido Popular? The PP that you chair is not a party comparable to the moderate European right. To begin with, the moderate right in Europe does not ally itself with the extreme right, it puts the country's interests ahead of those of the party and it denies any type of relationship with the dictatorships that devastated Europe in the last century"…’. As the Podemos spokesperson Pablo Echenique says succinctly ‘Vox wants to save Spain from the dastardly communists, but first of all, to catch some beach-time’.

Catalonia:

‘Minutes before re-entering prison after their low categorization was abruptly suspended, Catalan political prisoners Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Quim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, and Jordi Sànchez rallied against Spanish authorities for a lack of dialogue and warned that they will continue to stand up for their freedoms…’, says Vilaweb here.

Gibraltar:

‘Gibraltar seeks to keep EU ties after Brexit transition ends. The British Overseas Territory is not ruling out joining the customs union or the Schengen Area, but its future relationship depends on the UK and Spain’. Item from El País in English here.

The Coronavirus:

La Voz de Galicia thinks that we are now facing ‘a second wave’ of Covid-19 here in Spain, an opinion disputed by the Government here.

The Guardian has an article which examines the rise in Corona-cases: ‘…Yet now Spain is entering a holiday period when people will scatter from cities and mix at beach resorts before returning home late in August. There is potential for things to get worse…’.

El Mundo reports new contagions on the rise: now at over 1,000 per day…

Some of these new rules seem to have been hatched without much thought. Yes, it's good to wear a face-mask at all times (and not just when you want to confuse the new face-recognition technology), but how far should one be obliged to wear one while enjoying a drink on a 'terraza'? The police can fine you 100€ for not observing the rules, apparently, if the glass isn't touching your lips...

Media:

The European University Institute has a study on media pluralism, freedom of expression and information, with ‘worrisome’ levels for Spain here (pdf). La Vanguardia notes that ‘…In the case of Spain, the Institute sees a medium risk in relation to freedom of expression and a high risk in relation to freedom of information, and affects the need for "urgent changes" in various regulations…’.

A title from last Thursday’s El Mundo (firewall), quoting another from OkDiario from 2016, says that ‘Iran injected 9.3 million euros in three years to 360 Global Media, the producer of the TV show Fort Apache chaired by Pablo Iglesias’. El Plural takes the item apart here.

It has been a hard time for the media, with advertising down this year by 27.9% in the first semester. Increasingly, in this electronic age, print newspapers are disappearing in favour of cyber-editions. The savings – in paper, print, staff, distribution and returns – are obvious. Advertising income (see above) is supported by copy sales, subscriptions and other help from readers, plus political and commercial support from corporations. The content often comes from favourable press-releases and ‘copy’ (don’t believe everything they tell you) and, as it says here, now even journalists (or more likely ‘writers’) are beginning to be replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

Various:

The old king remains in the corners of the news in Spain. Here at Business Insider, we learn of how Juan Carlos spends his money – apparently on arms, yachts and high-performance cars. His fortune, they say, is around 2,000 million euros.

The people are turning against their royals, says Ouest France here, giving 53% of Spaniards as Republican.

Tommy Robinson (Wiki), the sometimes leader of the British far-right EDL group, says he is moving to Spain with his family (maybe he could help fellow-extremist Leapy Lee with his research once he’s settled).

Andalucía discos are under regional orders to insist on face-masks, gels and no dancing. Worse still, they must close by 5.00am in the morning at the very latest!

‘50 things that make life in Spain la hostia’. An amusing collection found at Medium here.

There’s no one like the English for preparing Spanish dishes (we remember Jamie Oliver’s paella with chorizo). Here’s The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake with ‘How to prepare a Spanish omelette’ (although, it does sounds delicious!).

Do you know where the accents go?

See Spain:

The Geology Museum in Madrid, with Eye on Spain here.

The Fallas Museum in Valencia with Go Nomad here.

Letters:

Hi Lenox

Re this stuff on driving licences.

Yesterday I had to visit my bank to confirm I was still alive (" Fe de vida "). This is in order to continue receiving my pension. My Spanish driving licence was accepted as ID!

It was also accepted when voting (last year) and as ID on a visit to a local office of the Policía Nacional.

So even if they don't drive I would encourage Brits resident in Spain to exchange their UK licences. They are easier to carry around than a passport and those torn bits of green paper.

Un saludo, Jake

Finally:

The Honest Pre-flight Safety Demonstration Video That Airlines Are Afraid to Show You’, on YouTube here.

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