*Additional reporting by Jon Clarke and Dilip Kuner
HOTELS and restaurants along the Costa del Sol are closing their doors on the advice of the Junta de Andalucia, laying off staff as Malaga airport prepares for a possible closure this weekend.
The normally busy airport was extremely quiet On Saturday morning, as many travellers cancelled plans to fly over coronavirus fears.
While most flights are still leaving as planned, some arrivals have been cancelled.
“I’ve had four cancellations this morning from parking clients who have changed plans to leave,” said Phil Carr, of Alpha Parking.
“They are worried about not getting back and there are loads of rumours about the airport closing later today. A lot is scare-mongering, but it is not looking good.”
Carr, who has worked at the airport for 13 years, added: “There is an emergency meeting of Malaga Town Hall this afternoon to decide exactly what is going to happen.
“We will have to wait and see, but it is certainly the quietest I have ever seen the airport since I started working here.”
An Olive Press journalist found the arrivals area of the airport was almost empty, when there would normally be hundreds of family members waiting.
Departures seemed to be going off as normal, apart from flights to Italy.
Even Jet2 flights were leaving, despite inbound flights being cancelled, albeit up to four hours late.
A Jet2 employee said: “They are late, but all the scheduled flights over the coming days are still set to leave as far as we know. If there are any changes, passengers will be emailed.”
She refused to comment on arrivals.
The information desk meanwhile insisted everything was operating as normal, but confirmed there were rumours that the government might shut the airport.
Staff at hotels in Fuengirola have however received emails that they are to remain at home until at least the end of the month due to the threat of coronavirus.
One British employee of a leading hotel, told the Olive Press: “I received an email from my manager this morning saying that the hotel had to close.
“My hours were already reduced anyway due to lack of bookings but now they have closed altogether.”
She added: “Luckily I can take this time off as holidays but I feel for the hundreds of other workers along the coast that aren’t as fortunate.”
Many hotels have seen dramatic reductions of bookings and widespread cancellations with one small hotel in the resort reporting to the Olive Press that they have seen a drop in bookings of 82% within the last two weeks.
The email distributed also mentioned about a possible closure of Malaga airport at midnight tonight.
In Ronda, hotels are suffering with many seeing cancellations of up to 50% of guests, while celebrated boutique hotel Molino del Santo, in nearby Benaojan, has delayed opening for the first time in over 30 years.
To make matters worse, the town has been forced to cancel its famous Semana Santa celebrations and all restaurants and bars were ordered to shut their outdoor terraces from 2pm today.
“We hardly have any clients anyway, so it makes no real difference,” said an employee at Restaurante Flores, which has been open since 1919.
One restaurant badly hit is Bardal, which recently got its second Michelin star.
Owner Benito Gomez took the decision today to close until the end of the month, at least, putting all his employees out of work.
“That is 29 families who all depend on this work and with Semana Santa also cancelled in Ronda this is really bad,” sommelier Miguel Conde told the Olive Press.
The famous town was almost empty today with just a few dozen tourists wandering around the centre and across its famous tajo bridge. The bullring and other museums were all closed.
One Austrian tourist Emmanuel Longin, 65, said: “It is amazing how few people are here, in some ways it is lucky, but others a shame as so much is closed.”
Coastal resorts in Malaga have transformed into ghost towns as bars and restaurants close their doors and beach goers are forbidden to access public beach areas.
Workers at the airport have described the area as ‘deserted’ as Spain tightens its borders and starts limiting air travel.