Holidays: Expert advises on waiting for 'last minute deals'
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Spain is one of the most popular European holiday destinations for UK travellers, attracting around 18 million Britons yearly pre-pandemic according to Statista. While holidays are on hold at the moment, as coronavirus travel restrictions remain, Spanish officials have confirmed discussions with the UK in the hope tourists will soon be able to return.
According to Spain’s Tourism Minister Fernando Valdés, the nation is in “discussions” with the UK over “green corridors”, which would work similarly to the travel corridors seen in 2020.
While nothing has yet been confirmed, tourism businesses in some of Spain’s most popular holiday resorts are already preparing to welcome back holidaymakers in the safest way possible.
Kate McWilliams is the deputy managing director of LOTUS, a travel consultancy which works with a number of Spanish tourism businesses including the Spanish Tourist Office, private sector clients as well as various hotel groups.
She spoke with Express.co.uk to share an insider take on how many of the nation’s most popular resorts have been impacted by a lack of tourism, and how they are preparing for their return.
“I think the UK is obviously massive for tourism to Spain. We are the number one source market to Spain so impact has been huge and some of the hotel groups that we’ve been talking to, last year they lost up to 80 percent of their business,” said Ms McWilliams.
“It’s really impacted the tourism sector in a huge way, and I know that the sector is very much looking forward to being able to restart this summer subject to the evolution of what happens next.”
The expert says it has impacted some destinations more than others, with Canary and Balearic Islands “more reliant on UK tourism”.
She continued: “Of course the impact has been absolutely huge. A lot of the hoteliers have invested so much money over the last year since the pandemic.”
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From special social distancing measures to ramping up Covid insurance, many hotels are set to make further investments so they are “able to reopen in a safe way.”
Ms McWilliams said: “Lots of the clients that we represent are putting in place a number of measures, or they started initiating these measures.”
Benidorm’s mayor Toni Perez announced plans to reinstate Covid safe measures on beaches which were initially put in place last summer.
The proposal will see the sand divided into “16 square metres” to enable “physical distancing and personal observance of these measures”.
Last year, beachgoers were required to stay in their boxes unless they were venturing into the water to swim.
In other regions, safety measures have been taken to the next level – with technology becoming a crucial asset.
Ms McWilliams explained: “If we look at somewhere like Palma in Majorca, which again is a huge holiday destination for Britons.
“Last year they rolled out a policy around some new tech using heat sensors.
“This allowed them to identify where which places were crowded, and then through an app could redirect some of those visitors to other areas, or the beaches.
“So there’s a load of new tech initiatives that are really quite compelling.”
Meanwhile, in Andalucia, the region is offering an added layer of protection for tourists in the form of a specific travel insurance policy for visitors during 2021.
The region has made an agreement with Europ Assistance Spain to offer free insurance with COVID-19 coverage provided tourists stay at one of the official accommodation facilities of the Region of Andalucia.
“They’re committing to covering up to €4000 medical expenses for people in the destination, all the way throughout the whole of 2021,” explained Ms McWilliams.
However, some of these requirements may impact future holiday plans – particularly for tourists looking to book in popular regions.
As Ms McWilliams points out, hotels and restaurants are still only able to operate under specific coronavirus guidelines, including limitations on capacity.
“I know there are specific guidelines in place in terms of things like how many people you can have in your restaurant and on terraces,” explained Ms McWilliams.
The layout of hotels may also change a little to accommodate guidelines set out by the Spanish government.
“There are hotels that are reducing their capacity, and there are hotels that might have two buildings but are only opening one building,” said Ms McWilliams.
“I know hotels are looking at what to do with their sun beds.
“They give suitable distances between the sun lounges, and there are other destinations where they are looking at things like pods for families to make sure they’ve got their own little kind space – more space than they normally would have.”
Though there are likely to be some changes for holidaymakers, Ms McWilliams is positive they will help to make tourists feel “reassured” on their holiday.
“There are loads of different destinations in Spain that are rolling out a whole load of initiatives to make customers feel confident and reassured and to bring those customers back,” she concluded.
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