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

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May 7 2020            Nº 349

Editorial: 

For Spaniards, if you can’t have a summer holiday abroad, where would you go? The leading destinations, according to a survey by the tourism-oriented Hosteltur, are Andalucía, the Balearics and the Comunidad Valenciana. Of course, many city-folk have roots in their pueblo, somewhere they or their forebears left for the opportunities of the smoke, and they will likely return there, maybe staying in some discomfort in the abuelo’s house. At least, it should be safe enough in these difficult times, ¿no?

Hotels, campsites, hostales rurales, Airbnb (that was a bust!), their holiday home (‘la segunda vivienda’), but not cruises or foreign adventures this year: it’ll be too dangerous, too restrictive and probably too expensive.  

The domestic holiday destinations should be fully open by July, says the tourist Minister Reyes Maroto. La Vanguardia looks at the carefree holidays for Spaniards this season: masks, disinfection, limits on numbers and proximity, and no more breakfast buffets it says. A second piece here in Hosteltur says that this year, Spanish domestic tourism will be the only player on the playa (you’re welcome) but that even this market will be considerably smaller than it was in 2019.

For foreign visitors, of course the problem is reversed. The frontier rather than keeping Spaniards in, will be keeping the foreigners out. 

Schengen Visa Info quotes the EU government as being ‘in doubt’. As far as Spain is concerned, the article says ‘…“We need to carefully look at what has happened to those countries where the Coronavirus struck early on in Asia. They reopened their borders, and then the Covid-19 cases started to rise again,”…’. One (rather grim) option on the table sees the ‘EU mull ‘Covid-19 passports’ to restore the tourist industry’.

Currently, Spain, just as France, is prioritizing domestic tourism.

The question is the timing – when will foreign tourism be allowed back to Spain? Most pundits are saying not until October – a truly disastrous forecast for this summer season’s business.  An expert from the WTO reckons on 800 million less tourists in 2020, a fall of 80% in world tourism. A prognosis like this can only be guesswork – once again, will the frontiers be opened soon?

The serious media are in no doubt. El Economista says that ‘the borders will remain closed until October’ and that ‘a summer is expected without foreign tourism’. The ABC agrees, while saying that the schedule is ‘indicative’ (and probably changeable if the PP and Vox get their way). The Guardian warns that ‘Covid-19 throws Europe’s tourism industry into chaos’, but says that some regions of Spain are pushing hard to reopen for business as usual ‘…Officials are cautiously hoping that international tourists could be allowed to visit Mallorca and Ibiza from late July…’. In Andalucía too, they are hoping to get going again, at least with domestic tourism, as the weather warms up and the cases of Covid-19 go down. 

The other worry is that, even with the system back in place, will people still want to get in an aeroplane, or a foreign hotel dining room? With the new rules for bars and restaurants (however they end up being made), will visitors still be looking forward to a crowded locale with cold beers and the football game on the telly at some Costa del Sol joint? What about the rules for the beach or the museum? Will there be fines? Can they still do ‘balconing’ or fall about drunk in Magaluf like they used to?

Foreign visitors may be welcome in a restaurant, but will they be welcome on the street? 

It may be time to recast the whole business of tourism.

El Economista again, quoting a leading Wall Street financier on Spanish tourism: “Spain should not try to keep a sector alive if it is known that it will not survive in the next decade”.

……

Housing:

From Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Spanish real estate experts opine on the Coronavirus crisis and outlook for property in Spain’. 

Spanish Property Insight again: ‘Banks forecasting 6pc decline in Spanish property prices and two-year recovery, but foreign segment expected to take the biggest hit’. 

El País analysis here: ‘The exodus of real estate that comes after the virus: from the city to the countryside. Telecommuting and fear of another confinement are driving the search for larger homes far from urban centres or in rural areas’.

‘…Airbnb’s business has taken a beating: Customers are demanding refunds, and hosts are struggling with a drought of bookings. The company has cut $800 million worth of marketing, while calling on governments to help its hosts…’. The New York Times here.

‘Spain’s lockdown is dragging one of Europe’s older-fashioned property markets into the 21st century, with estate agents scrambling to offer virtual visits and notaries lobbying to legalise e-signatures to offset a near-total halt of business…’. Reuters here

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Tourism:

A gloomy headline from VozPópuli says ‘The Government’s de-escalation plan will be the end of 85,000 bars: «It can’t be done. We have to close» (There are apparently 277,500 bars and restaurants in Spain). My own opinion is that a lot of bar-flies or restaurant customers are going to stay away anyway – as 1) it is potentially dangerous to meet up in a public place; 2) it won’t be as comfortable or as agreeable as it was, and 3) the fun will be largely removed. It’s a tragedy indeed, but we can’t blame the Government for the effects from a pandemic.

The airport of the future, with La Vanguardia here. Aena (it runs 46 airports and 2 heliports in Spain) is designing its post-pandemic airports with 37 general measures and 38 specific processes. Expect face-masks, lots of hidrogel, passenger-only airports, the reduction as far as possible of runway passenger buses, constant cleaning and so on. But what about inside the planes? How far away can you place your passengers from each other without the ticket price becoming sky-high? 

One in four hotels in Andalucía (that’s to say, around 610 of them) will not reopen after the crisis says El Economista here

‘Ibiza welcomes more than three million visitors during the summer months, pumping billions into its economy. Close to 75% of the island’s 147,000-plus population get their income from tourism, directly and indirectly – besides the fabled nightclub scene, there’s the hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants, bars, shops, taxis, and other businesses that exist because of the pull of the clubs. But a huge question mark hangs over them all, with the clubs beginning to cancel their summer seasons due to coronavirus…’. Item from The Guardian

How to get holidaymakers back to Benidorm. Welcome to the Plan PATTI, or ‘Protection and Intelligent Technical Tourist Assistance’ – a gadget that elderly visitors can carry which, if necessary, will alert the local health authorities to come quickly. Benidorm’s worries here

‘German tourists demand access to their Spanish island holiday villas. Tourists say Mallorca is ‘violating their rights’ as Europe split over restarting summer breaks amid virus outbreak’. Item from The Telegraph (paywall) here

‘Fuengirola (Málaga) will use sophisticated technology to track how many people are on its beaches once further coronavirus restrictions are lifted. A computer programme developed by a local company will control the capacity of beaches with the aim to avoid crowding and minimise the risk of Covid-19 infections…’. The Olive Press has the story here

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Seniors:

From El Confidencial comes ‘The catastrophe of the care-homes: how we could do this to our grandparents?’ The opinion piece says ‘…the truth is that we have had plenty of time to report the issues and we said nothing. And let’s not forget this: whether a residence was well or poorly managed, during most of the coronavirus crisis they have not been allowed to send their charges to the hospital. That is to say: collectively we have closed the doors from the street, as if they were leper-houses. And this is a crime, because residences are not hospitals even if they have a doctor and nurses. You have to ask yourself the questions that hurt the most: what has happened here, not just now, but in the last few years? Why have we allowed ourselves to discover, horrified, that so many residences became nothing more than waiting-rooms? Was it something sudden?…’. 

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Finance:

‘Spain will take at least two years to overcome the worst crisis in a century, according to the government forecast. The Government has sent its Stability Plan to Brussels: it estimates a drop in activity of 9.2% in 2020 and a recovery of 6.8% in 2021; unemployment will rise to 19%’. Item from El País (May 1st) here.

‘The number of unemployed people in Spain rises by 8% in April, bringing the total number to over 3.8 million’. The Olive Press here. ‘Spain loses almost 950,000 jobs since the beginning of the coronavirus confinement’ says The Corner here

From El Español here: ‘The Government recognized this Friday (May 1st) that the economic recovery will not have the ‘V’ shape that it had announced until now but that it will be an «asymmetric ‘V'», which means that the economy will sink this year and will grow back next year but without recovering its full weight lost in these months of confinement. It is a bleak scenario for the Spanish economy, but susceptible to worsen, as recognized by the Government in the Stability Plan sent to Brussels on April 30th. In the presentation of his economic picture, the Government acknowledges that «possible new outbreaks» of Covid-19 cannot be ruled out, «particularly in the autumn, as temperatures drop», a situation which would have an even greater devastating effect on the economy…’. 

Banco Santander, the Eurozone’s second-largest bank by market value after BNP Paribas, saw its quarterly net profit dive by 82% as it set aside 1,600 million euros to cover expected loan losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The bank saw particularly sluggish growth in its domestic market, Spain, and the UK, while reported income in its most profitable market, Brazil, fell 3.7%. Santander’s shares have fallen by 49% since Feb 17…’ Wolf Street here

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Politics:

The main story on Wednesday was the debate and vote in Parliament to extend the State of Alarm for two (final?) weeks, taking us up to the 24th of May. The Partido Popular had said that they would vote against it (three regional PP presidents went on record saying they were in favour of the prolongation: Galicia’s Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Madrid’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Andalucía’s Juanma Moreno) as did the ERC, moving from abstention to ‘no’. However, Ciudadanos went the other way, voting ‘yes’ and giving, with the PNV, enough support for the motion to be carried. Two of the Ciudadanos deputies resigned as a result, but Inés Arrimadas has been shown to be more of a leader than perhaps previously thought, taking the centre in Spanish politics which Pablo Casado has so evidently abandoned.  Finally, when the numbers clearly weren’t adding up, the PP agreed to abstain. 

‘The PP president Pablo Casado says that it is «unsustainable» to maintain the Spanish Welfare State with «21 million Spaniards» depending on a state benefit and with nine million Spaniards who want to work yet cannot. Speaking on Telemadrid, and collected by Europa Press here, he insisted on the need to «reactivate the economy with full security through massive tests» to identify people who can work, as well as identifying the most vulnerable for their protection…’.

What would be happening if the PP were governing, asks El Plural here

In the Comunidad de Madrid, a new poll finds that the PP would almost double its deputies in the regional government if elections were held today says La Vanguardia here

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Catalonia:

O paramos el país o no habrá país que levantar«. Either we shall stop the country or there will be no country left to stop. The ERC spokesperson Gabriel Rufián was probably preaching to the home team a month ago here. Along with the PP and Vox (politics make strange bed-fellows), the ERC expressed its hostility this week to a further extension of the State of Alarm. 

……

The Coronavirus:

More fine-tuning: From Phase 1 (mainland, from May 11th), The Government will allow groups of up to 10 people to meet up in private homes, outside or in bar terraces. Bar terraces will also be allowed to use 50% of their space (and not 30%). two metres distance and with proper care (etc). Every 14 days, in theory, we move up a phase…

From The Huff Post here: ‘Europe’s plans to end lockdown reveal life isn’t going back to normal. Expect masks, social distancing and working from home to become a standard part of life for the foreseeable future’.

EFE introduces readers to the experts behind the Government’s de-escalation plans. 

Prevent mobility between provinces, the key measure to stop a resurgence of the pandemic.

Investigators are in no doubt that there will be a second wave of Coronavirus infections, says XLSemanal. Perhaps as early as July or August, it warns.  

Spain’s larger stores, anything over 400m2, such as El Corte Inglés, Zara, Media Markt, Leroy Merlin or Ikea, will not be opened to the public until May 25th says El Economista

‘Andalucía returns to the beaches, with plans to open them from May 25th, while imposing schedules and capacity control’ say El Español here

A reader has sent us this:  ‘From 9/11 to 2008 and COVID-19: Signs and Wonders of a Collapsing Global (Dis)order’. It says ‘…If this were truly a “war” against the coronavirus, then as in other wars the truth would have to be the first casualty…’.  It’s very persuasive. 

‘Britain’s response to the pandemic has shown it’s suffering from another dangerous disease: unshakeable belief in its own exceptionalism. This is not a uniquely British illness, of course. Many countries put themselves at the centre of the map and at the hub of history. But while the sickness causes sporadic bouts of chauvinism in others, the British seem to have a terminal case…’. From Politico here

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Media: 

Journalist Javier Negre and his YouTube channel Estado de Alarma: ‘My dream is to overthrow the government of Pedro Sánchez’. Who…? what…? From El Huff Post here  ‘The hidden face of ‘Estado de Alarma’, the new lighthouse for the far right in Spain. The channel is a sounding board for Vox’s views’. The channel (with 234,000 followers) is here

From Digital Sevilla here: ‘El Mundo newspaper will apply an ERTE (temporary lay-off) to all its workers. Unidad Editorial takes advantage of the coronavirus crisis to use this tactic, but the financial problems of the paper come from before’.

A peculiar newspaper, or ‘free-sheet’, called the Euro Weekly has taken a swipe at BoT. See their story titled ‘Business over Tapas Is Finished Across Spain’s Costa del Sol & Costa Blanca Says International Businessman’. Very odd. 

El País is now with a paywall, although one is allowed to access ten free articles a month. 

Who needs Tezanos (the CIS pollster) when you’ve got the ABC, asks Malaprensa here. The question (here) seems phrased in a sufficiently neutral way: ‘Will Sánchez manage to complete the legislature or will there be early elections?’ But, which of the two answers would you tick? 

  1. Yes, he will manage to complete the legislature, because his main objective in politics is to remain in power at any cost. Although the economy is in a coma, it will give the separatists and Podemos all the concessions they ask for in order to retain a majority of the government and continue in office. In addition, it has the support of television and propaganda works very well.
  2. No, he will be unable to complete the legislature, because the economic collapse will take his government ahead and because he is already touched by the way in which he has managed the coronavirus epidemic. Despite the domination of the television and the CIS, Spanish citizens are already beginning to distance themselves from him and his government. Propaganda will not save him.

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Ecology: 

‘Clean air in Europe during lockdown ‘leads to 11,000 fewer deaths’. Study into effects of coronavirus curbs also finds less asthma and preterm births’. Found at The Guardian here

‘Pollution has fallen by an average of 58% in Spain’s larger cities due to the lockdown. The NO2 levels recorded during the State of Alarm are the lowest recorded for the months of March and April over the last decade’. La Vanguardia reports here

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Various:

Royal issues continue to bubble somewhere in the background. From El País in English here, ‘In 2010, Spain’s former king received an alleged €1.7m donation from the ruler of Bahrain, Swiss probe shows. Arturo Fasana, the former monarch’s fund manager, tells prosecutors he deposited the money in a bank account for Juan Carlos I’. The popular TV personality El Gran Wyoming (sic) finds Juan Carlos’ Christmas speech from 2010 asking for ‘rigor, sacrifice and honesty’ (video) here. From ElDiario.es (for those who missed the point) comes the editorial comment that ‘There is no more hypocritical solidarity or more cynical patriotism than that of those who trumpet their love for Spain while hiding their fortune in a tax haven’. Perhaps a victim of the above, the popular estimation of Felipe VI has fallen for the first time to under 50% (4.8 out of 10) says El Español here (it then cheers itself up again while giving the PP 7.8 and Podemos 2.2). The loyal Junta de Andalucía meanwhile has raised a few eyebrows by adding a crown to the president’s seal. 

A fascinating blog called The History of Spain in Writing and Art. It says ‘The history of the Spanish peninsula has been pivotal to the history of the modern world. Spain has been invaded, conquered and re-conquered more than any other country in Europe and her soil is steeped in the blood of all the western civilizations that have risen and fallen over the last ten thousand years…’. There is much to read here. 

Photo at Reddit here: ‘Same-sex marriage being performed in 1901: Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sánchez Loriga are wed, with Elisa disguising herself, unbeknownst to authorities, as a man with the name «Mario» on the marriage certificate. Galicia, Spain’. 

Municipalities are like parishes in a way. One town hall per unit, large or small. Talking of small municipalities, here are some one can walk across in a few minutes. The smallest of the, uh, Bottom Ten, is only 0.03kms2 in size – it’s in Valencia. 

All the different accents of Spain (less, of course, Lenox’) are here on a YouTube video. 

‘How olives actually get to your table…’ with Eye on Spain here.

Propaganda, a slice of life, political posturing? A cute girl (OK, an actress) tells us about her pueblo in a video at YouTube here. It’s called ‘Spain: «Europe’s one big scam»’. Most of the BoT readers left their place of birth one way or another and moved somewhere new. What do we think of this?

……

See Spain:

‘Why is there a giant frog in the street at 37 Recoletos Avenue? By the Gran Madrid Casino’s gate stands a big and seemingly outlandish frog. This bronze sculpture, created by Eladio de Mora (alias dEmo), was installed in April 2014 as a gift to the City of Madrid’. An item from Eye on Spain here

……

Finally:

A dry subject to wind up on this week. From YouTube here – Spanish names that come from Arab roots.