The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations (CEHAT) have said today that they have been most disappointed by the de-escalation plan announced yesterday by the Government of Spain, designed to gradually reduce restrictions brought in during the start of the crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Spain will currently maintain what has been term “tourism zero” (#Tourism0) throughout the country, set in motion by the State of Emergency restrictions announced last March 14. During an extraordinary plenary session, held by videoconference this morning, businessmen from the sector stated that this document, announced yesterday by the president himself, Pedro Sánchez, does not provide answers for the first sector of the country, an industry which contributes 14% to national GDP, more than €120 billion per year, between tourism and hospitality.

The de-escalation plan does not resolve at all how to proceed with the opening of tourist accommodation businesses, which do not yet have fundamental prior measures such as a single national protocol, validated by Europe; the extension of the ERTE business suspensions, due to force majeure, to six months after the repeal of the state of alarm; the carrying out mass testing on staff, clients and suppliers; or any support from the Public Administration to the sector with new financial legislation that contributes to the continuity of companies and, therefore, the employment they generate.

The president of CEHAT, Jorge Marichal, explained that tourist accommodation establishments such as hotels, apartments, resorts, hostels, camping sites and spas, which the Confederation represents, “do not even have a start with this plan, which is absolutely not a useful manual with which to indicate how to proceed with re-opening, and it will not be viable in the vast majority of hotel facilities either.”

“With this plan, it is practically impossible for us to reopen for business without going directly from the ERTE due to force majeure to either ERE administration or bankruptcy,” he added.

For this reason, CEHAT have insisted on the importance of knowing how to proceed with re-opening, by approving a single protocol for the tourism sector, which can then be validated by Europe. This document is already being worked on at a technical roundtable, directed by the Institute of Tourist Quality of Spain (ICTE), in which the Confederation, the Hotel Technological Institute (ITH) and the Secretary of State for Tourism of the Government of Spain are actively participating.

The protocol is due to be ready next Friday, May 8, according to ICTE president Miguel Mirones, during a CEHAT plenary this morning, which will then have to be approved by the Ministry of Health.

Specific plan for tourism in Spain

For all these reasons, Jorge Marichal also points to the urgency of a specific plan for accommodation establishments, “that tells us exactly how to proceed with opening and what measures will be necessary.”

“The Government must understand that sanitary measures, which we understand and support, condition hotel activity and, therefore, until we have authorised reasonable mobility, it cannot be thought that [under the currently proposed] phases we [could participate] in this de-escalation, or a plan to work”

The CEHAT President added that “what the sector really needs is a safety net so that de-escalation can take place correctly with a series of very specific measures, namely the extension of the ERTE due to force majeure and under conditions agreed with unions, 12 months grace period in the amortization of companies’ capital in those financial operations that leverage the activity, and the European validation of these protocols.”

CEHAT insist that the restriction on mobility by provinces does not contribute to this “new normal” of which the Government speaks, and understands that “if we do not have free movement, with all the necessary control measures, we will not action protocols and 30% gauging for safety are useless; we simply cannot open.”

Likewise, it should be noted that the housing sector is the only one that has agreed positions with the main trade unions, CCOO and UGT, with whom on April 20 they signed an agreement of joint measures, presented to the Government, to guarantee the strengthening of companies and continuity of employment.

Finally, despite their disappointment with this plan, hotel businessmen are not resigning themselves to throw in the towel and will continue working to save tourism in the country.