COVID-19 leaves Spain’s interior a tourist desert

COVID-19 leaves Spain’s interior a tourist desert
A tourist walks around The Mezquita in Cordoba after the national lockdown put in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic was lifted In Spain. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

COVID-19 leaves Spain’s interior a tourist desert

COVID-19 leaves Spain’s interior a tourist desert
  • In Grenada and Toledo, revenue drops more than 50 percent for restaurants

CORDOBA: The Santos Bar, across from Cordoba’s celebrated mosque, would normally be groaning with tourists tucking into its trademark Spanish tortillas.

But with the coronavirus pandemic, “everything’s dead,” the owner says.

The Mezquita, an eighth-century mosque later turned into a cathedral, is the most visited site in the Andalusian town in southern Spain.

But since it reopened at the end of May, only 16,000 people have set foot in the UNESCO World Heritage site considered one of the most accomplished works of Moorish architecture — the number of visitors it would normally receive in a week.

“It will take months to make that up,” said church spokesman Jose Juan Jimenez Gueto, although money set aside in previous years means staff have been kept busy with restoration projects.

Nearby restaurants, hotels and shops are not so lucky, and many are closed. At the Santos Bar, only owner Jesus Maldonado is working.

Business is “a quarter of normal,” he said. 

His 10 employees are all on a state-backed furlough scheme.

The plunge in tourism, a sector that accounts for 12 percent of Spain’s economy, will be felt like a body blow.

While the country’s beaches are its biggest draw, cities in the interior like Cordoba also attract tourists with their cultural sites.

And it’s places like Grenada, Toledo, and Segovia .that are bearing the brunt, according to Spain’s national hotel association, with revenue drops greater than 50 percent for restaurants and bars in their historic city centers.




A tourist visits the Alhambra in Granada on the day it reopened to the public after three months of closure. (AFP)

In Andalusia, hotel occupancy is at an average of just 25 percent, a good 10 percentage points lower than in establishments along the coast, said Francisco de la Torre, head of the region’s hotel association.

He worries that Andalusian eateries will eventually have to shed up to a third of their staff.

In Spain, the world’s No. 2 tourist destination behind France, spending by foreign tourists plunged by 62 percent in the first five months of the year compared with the same period in 2019.

In Ronda, the mountaintop city perched above a gorge known for its stone bridge, Maria Lara Galindo has worked as a guide for Asian tourists for the past decade.

“For those serving Spanish tourists there is now some activity, but Asian tourists — nothing,” she said.

While Japanese and South Korean tourists may now visit the European Union again, Galindo doesn’t expect them to return before next summer, and thinks they will be more likely to travel individually than in groups.

Galindo is one of half-a-million independent workers in Spain’s tourism industry, whose federation fears that up to 100,000 people could lose their jobs.

In Seville, foreign tourists are nearly nonexistent and even Spanish tourists few and far between.

Reports of new outbreaks are keeping people from going out, added Celia Ferrero, vice president of the Association of Independent Workers.

“Spending is still under shock from the coronavirus and it will stay that way until there is a solution,” she said.

Jordi Reines, who works as a nurse in Barcelona, canceled a trip to Portugal to spend his time off in Andalusia.

“We didn’t even think about making a trip abroad,” said Reines’ girlfriend Noemi Garcia.

Jose Romero, who owns a stand selling drinks and ice cream alongside the city’s central Spain Square, said sales are just a tenth of what they were last year.

“This year is a washout, people aren’t confident enough to travel,” he said.

The dozen souvenir shops near him are still shuttered.

“Uncertainty and fear are slowing everything down,” said Isabel Diaz, who is reopening her family’s fan shop after a four-month closure — something they weren’t even forced to do during Spain’s civil war in 1936-1939.


Samsung launches new flagship Galaxy S smartphone early, targets remote workers, gamers

This photo provided by Samsung shows the Galaxy S21. (Samsung via AP)
This photo provided by Samsung shows the Galaxy S21. (Samsung via AP)
Updated 15 January 2021

Samsung launches new flagship Galaxy S smartphone early, targets remote workers, gamers

This photo provided by Samsung shows the Galaxy S21. (Samsung via AP)
  • Samsung is set to release the S21 series at a cheaper rates
  • The series will be widely available starting Jan. 29 through Samsung.com, carriers and retailers online

SEOUL, South Korea: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. on Thursday unveiled the first Galaxy S smartphone with a stylus for on-screen work called the S Pen, more than a month ahead of its usual annual release schedule for models of its flagship compact phone.
Analysts have said offering a stylus within the Galaxy S21 series might signal the South Korean tech giant will merge the S line with its other premium smartphone range, the Note, already equipped with a note-taking stylus. That could free up resources for Samsung to push its separate range high-end foldable phones as key mass products rather than niche devices.
Samsung is also looking to grab market share after China’s Huawei Technologies was hit with US sanctions that restricted its supply and hurt sales, analysts have said.
An early Galaxy S21 launch is a likely tactic to capitalize on Huawei’s woes, said Counterpoint Research analyst Sujeong Lim. New iterations of the Note typically come in the second half of the year.
Lim said Samsung faces intense competition in the high-end category from Chinese vendors amid growing demand for devices that can be used for remote work amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as play like videogaming.
In the United States, the Galaxy S21 price range starts at $799.99, the S21 Plus version at $999.99, and the S21 Ultra at $1,199.99.
The series will be widely available starting Jan. 29 through Samsung.com, carriers and retailers online, Samsung said.
With the most advanced processing chip in any Galaxy device, the S21 is 5G compatible and designed for shooting and viewing video and images as well as on-screen work. The top end of the range, the Ultra — the only version compliant with the S Pen stylus, which has to be bought separately — sports a four-lens rear camera that allows different angles and zoom shots.
Samsung plans to offer the stylus with other devices, said TM Roh, head of Samsung’s mobile communications business.
The standard S21’s screen size is 6.2 inches, with the S21 Plus at 6.7 inches and S21 Ultra is 6.8 inches, optimal for watching videos and gaming. The latter two are close in size to last year’s Galaxy Note ‘phablets’ — a cross between a phone and a tablet.
The S21 series is powered by Qualcomm Inc’s Snapdragon 888 chips or Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chips depending on the region, Samsung said. Qualcomm said last month the 5G chips will be manufactured by Samsung’s chipmaking division.