The year closes for the hotel sector with a drop in occupancy close to 10 points and an increase in infections due to the new variant of the coronavirus, omicron, tourist establishments in the province have experienced a volume of cancellations between 20 and 25%, both for your hosting and catering services. The vice president of the Association of Hotel Entrepreneurs of the Costa del Sol, Javier Hernández, attends Malaga Hoy in his holiday period to explain how the Christmas holidays are developing in this segment of the tourist activity and what perspectives there are for the next months before the announcement of the Junta de Andalucía that it will bring together the different committees next week to adopt measures to stop the spread of the virus in this sixth wave.

–How is the omicron variant affecting the province’s hotel sector?

-This negatively affecting and has caused cancellations, both for the diners of the New Year’s Eve parties, and in general for Christmas. We understand this omicron variant to be much more contagious, although the health effects are minor, but it is generating a certain saturation in Primary Care centers and that complicates the situation quite a bit. Regarding the hotel sector, it is obviously affecting because the hotel establishments and the hospitality industry are having to request a Covid certificate or passport, and at the same time if they do not have it, they have to request a PCR test of the last 48 hours or of antigens of the last 72, which negatively affects the province of Malaga and the hotel sector quite a bit.

–Are the occupancy forecasts for Christmas of 55.83% being met?

– No, we have noticed a significant drop in occupancy for Christmas. We are talking about the dates from December 23 to January 2, for which we had planned 55.83% occupancy and this has dropped to 47.52%. On New Year’s Eve, we initially expected 65.54% occupancy and finally it will be practically 56.52%. That is practically 9 points below what Aehcos had predicted a few days ago on December 22.

–What volume of cancellations is currently registered?

–The occupation has decreased between 8 and 9 points, which means that there has been a volume of cancellations between 20 and 25%.

–To what extent is the province’s transition to health alert level 2 influencing?

-Really, the passage of the province of Malaga to level 2 of health alert It is not affecting as much as is the rate of contagion that is having the hotel sector, and above all because although the health alert index is increasing, it is true that there are no restrictions from the point of view of the occupation of tables or lounges. Regardless of that, what fundamentally affects is the volume of cancellations that are occurring and the distances that must be put as a preventive measure in the hotel sector in hospitality spaces and for the New Year’s Eve party, and therefore, many times the sector seeks reinforcement measures much greater than those recommended by Health.

–How is it affecting the health situation both in the field of stays and in the field of food in the hotel sector?

-With the planned Christmas occupancy initially 55.83% and that it has dropped to 47.52% and for New Year’s Eve from 65.54% we have gone to 56.52% due to the volume of cancellation.

-Have the celebrations been kept for New Year’s Eve?

– A few days ago we said that 43% of the establishments planned to have a party on New Year’s Eve. This data has dropped and from 43% we went only to between 20 and 25%. With which, many hotels have had to make the decision and precisely because of the cancellations they have suffered due to the fact that many families in their entirety have decided not to celebrate the New Year’s Eve party or not to attend; they had to cancel the party itself. We have gone from 43% of establishments that are open that were going to celebrate the New Year’s Eve party to between 20 and 25%. Therefore, the availability of New Year’s Eve parties has dropped due to the cancellations that have occurred during the dates between December 23 and December 30.

– How many hotels are currently open?

-We are talking about a number of hotels of about 260 of the 330 that there are, In other words, we have 71 hotels closed right now, which are 10 more than there were in 2019.

–The Junta de Andalucía has announced that next week it will bring together the different committees to take measures. What does the sector predict and which would be the best from the hotel point of view?

–We understand that this omicron variant, which is much more contagious but its rate of hospitalization or deaths is much lower, will probably cause the vaccination process is accelerated, the booster vaccine is implemented or given for the different ages and that will generate greater immunity in the population. We hope that it will be positive, especially during the months of December, January and until the middle of February because it will cause even the population to be more immune to the virus, ignoring another new variant that may arise.

– And how do you assess the implementation of the Covid passport?

–We understand that in a current situation of infection level requesting the certificate or the pCovid contribution in hospitality establishments is something positive. It is also true that it protects customers within the establishments and causes those who are not vaccinated or who may be a source of contagion not to use the hospitality establishments, and therefore, that will cause a lower rate of infections or a lower risk with respect to the contagion index.

– Should mobility be allowed some freedom?

–From Aehcos we understand that the freedom of mobility should be allowed as long as from a health point of view one has a Covid passport, or even a booster vaccination. Therefore, I believe that restrictions regarding mobility between provinces should not exist except in cases of not having a passport, and I say this due to the predisposition to infections that unvaccinated people may have, but we understand that 90% of the population is vaccinated, and therefore, restrictions on mobility should not exist and should allow the national or domestic market to be benefited and from the hotel point of view, since it is harmed by the cancellations for this last Christmas date. Mobility should be allowed as long as one has the Covid passport or the corresponding antigen or PCR tests.

–What behavior do the foreign tourist source markets present at the moment?

-East behavior is in a process of stagnationn, that is, very low demand. We understand that with the level of contagion and with this omicron variant, the months of January and February are very weak, and therefore, we understand that it will be or should be a turning point for our hope in the year 2022 and for that air transport recovers and we can have tourists of international origin as soon as possible.

– What level of demand is there?

–Very low because the level of air connections is also quite low. As I said, this will be a turning point, we remain hopeful for the year 2022 and we understand that this will gradually return to normal.

–And what does the Spanish public represent at the moment?

-Right now, the Spanish public represents between 55% and 60% of the demand and international tourism 40% more or less. Above all, the demand for the Christmas holidays has been from international residents on the coast, that is, they have not come so much by air transport, but have practically taken advantage of the holidays to be able to enjoy in a hotel establishment with security guarantees to be able to staying beyond what is your usual address.

– Do you want to travel despite the increase in infections?

-We understand that there is enough desire to travel, The only thing we can fear for next year, 2022, is that there have been destinations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Costa del Sol that have been closed in 2021, such as Greece, Egypt or the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia. Therefore, they will be destinations that will be available for the international market and also for the national one next year, but we want to be positive.

–What does the group ask of 2022?

– We have the hope from the sector that the year 2022, and from mid-February or early March, the situation will improve. We hope the year 2022 is good or at least it has occupancy levels above this year 2021 and we are increasingly getting closer to the 2019 data, which as we always say is our reference year.

– Where should the promotion of the Costa del Sol destination go in the next edition of Fitur 2022?

–For us this year, the national market has practically been the one that has saved the season, therefore, the promotion directed at it within the framework of the Fitur fair must be very intense, and trying to generate domestic demand that supplants or can counteract the availability of those destinations in the year 2022 such as Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Croatia and some Mediterranean islands such as Corsica or Sardinia, which are the competence of the Costa del Sol. The promotion towards the national market must be very intense from the point of view of demand because practically this year 60 or 65% of the volume of tourists that we have had, especially in the summer season, which is high, have come from the national market. It is very important to strengthen the promotion not only at the face-to-face level at fairs such as Fitur, but to be able to generate digital promotion tools from a distance for the national market, trying to be much more incisive and especially in domestic markets such as the Basque Country, Madrid, the Andalusians themselves who visit the Costa del Sol, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia or Castilla La Mancha, nearby markets where promotion must be very selective from the demand point of view.

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