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Tourism authority advice for traders affected by lockdown
Tourism authority advice for traders affected by lockdown
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Mar 24, 2020
TOURISM authorities in the Valencia region have released a series of recommendations for those who work in, or rely on, the industry for their income.
Due to the national quarantine, restaurants, bars and holiday accommodation are all shut – with the exception of hotels housing 'stranded' tourists or those which have been adapted with medical equipment to use as additional hospital facilities – and Easter is, effectively, cancelled, since the lockdown may continue until that weekend, all the fiesta parades have been called off, and contagion risk outside Spain's borders may mean foreign travel is strongly advised against in other countries as well as nationally.
But the advice from the Comunidad Valenciana's regional tourism board is valid for the rest of the country, and includes ways of making the enforced shutdown pay.
Luckily, it has not happened in high summer, when most of Spain, or at least its coasts, earns the majority of its holidaymaker income, says regional tourism secretary Francesc Colomer.
He assures his department is working on the industry 'returning with greater strength than ever' after quarantine is over – and in fact, the more optimistic traders nationwide are quietly confident that once the country 'regains its freedom', the public will 'go mad' and do everything they have not been able to do for weeks, and more besides.
“Public health is a priority, but the economy in general and tourism authorities in particular should be at the heart of services to the people,” Colomer says.
“It's time to stay at home in order to come back stronger than ever – because what's important is protecting ourselves so that, when it's all over, we'll be healthy enough to start travelling again.
“Tourism authorities are still working and are by your side, whether you're a large or small company or an entire destination, via our online channels, offering you information, help and training.
“Our aim is for the tourism industry to make an even bigger comeback once we've survived the pandemic.”
Make use of the down-time
'Empathy' is important, says Colomer – not least because the extreme stress of financial hardship, job loss and fears of another recession could cause the workforce to become physically debilitated; stress weakens the immune system, and would make people more vulnerable to contagion and put them at a greater risk of non-recovery if they catch the virus.
For this reason, he says, avoiding redundancies is crucial – temporary lay-offs are better, although they should be avoided, too, wherever possible.
'Keeping a close relationship and one of trust' with customers and staff is crucial, and for those forced to shut down for the meantime, it is vital they contact their provincial tourism authorities immediately they take the decision – for the province of Alicante, this is firstname.lastname@example.org, for Valencia, email@example.com, and for Castellón, firstname.lastname@example.org, and for elsewhere in the country, traders should be able to find their own relevant contacts fairly easily online.
They should also explain to customers and staff why they are closing, the reasons, and for how long, and work out what they can do to help them in the meantime.
For customers, the industry should look to offering alternative dates later in the year and transfer bookings to then with minimal red tape – perhaps offering incentives to convince them, like offering an extra night for free or a small rebate.
Additionally, the industry should keep its booking channels open and take firm reservations for summer and the latter half of the year.
“We still can't know how things will develop with this public health crisis in the medium and longer term, but in a normal scenario, we would expect the tourism sector to be able to start offering its services again by summer,” Colomer says.
Focus on strategy, staff training, and all-important advertising
Meanwhile, as the sector is unable to operate fully for a few weeks, Colomer recommends they 'dedicate this quiet time to planning and improving strategy and internal operations'.
“Now that they are not having to attend to customers, they should take advantage of being less busy to carry out repairs and maintenance [the type where outside companies are not needed, such as repainting, spring cleaning and ordering new decorations and equipment], optimising communication support tools [such as maintaining and upgrading websites], and on advertising, marketing and staff training,” Colomer says.
He recommends firms do not cancel their advertising online or in the press – especially as websites and newspapers are being visited and read more than ever at the moment – as this is the one time they can practically guarantee their business gets full public attention; the media is crucial for keeping the public informed of what is happening with the lockdown and health alert, and likely to be viewed far more than during 'normal' periods, and with such a large proportion of the population now working fewer hours or not at all and unable to leave their homes, websites and the media are a major source of their entertainment.
Whilst it may seem futile at present for tourism-related firms, such as restaurants, bars, retailers and hotels to advertise, they will have a larger audience right now than ever before, and being able to plan everything they will do once quarantine ends is what is keeping everyone sane and optimistic in the meantime.
Advertising, staff training, and acquiring and upgrading work tools can sometimes be offset against a firm's or self-employed worker's tax obligations, so this need not be a more expensive time than usual when focusing on these elements to a greater degree than usual.
Companies can also look at ways they can help contribute to easing the crisis for the public – such as donations, which can be tax-deductible, offering volunteer food-delivery services, and sourcing or making supplies and equipment; this in itself acts as a form of advertising, since corporate social responsibility is proving to be more and more crucial in modern times and firms are judged as much, if not more, on their ethical actions, empathy and humanitarian and social consciousness as they are on their goods, services and prices.
Financial help is available
Colomer stresses that, although weeks without any custom make it extremely tough for companies to survive and to keep their staff on the payroll, they are not alone: the national government has set aside unprecedented sums to keep the economy afloat and stop traders and the workforce from being tempted to break quarantine to earn a living.
Companies of every size from multi-nationals to one-man bands are advised to research, in full, where they can gain tax, IVA (VAT) and Social Security exemptions, payment holidays or stays of grace, and also extra funding.
Colomer recalls that the central government has set aside €400 million purely for those involved, directly or indirectly, in the tourism industry, and has also distributed the better part of a €200 billion pot to Spain's regional governments to support the workforce and public services through the crisis.
In addition, the Comunidad Valenciana has created a capital risk fund via the Valencian Institute of Finance (IVF), which, even in non-Coronavirus times, is aimed at helping companies grow.
The kitty currently sits at €200m, and offers capital investment in companies in the region that, with a bit of money behind them, would be able to increase their contribution to the economy, offer quality jobs, more jobs, and decent wages.
For smaller firms and the self-employed who do not fall into the above category, the IVF offers loans at 0% interest to help them with their cashflow, with delayed-repayment schemes, instalment repayment, and regional tax breaks.
Also, the IVF has set aside €800,000 for companies to set up more modern technology and systems that allow staff to work from home.
The tourism authority says it is happy to speak to any workers or companies in need at present, offering them advice and support.
So all is not lost, and traders are encouraged to treat the quarantine as an impromptu rest break before their industries come back with a very loud bang and burst onto the scene with greater strength and more customers than ever before.
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