AT a time of uncertainty for all, and with drastic measures in place to fight coronavirus, Spain’s economy has understandably been hit hard.
The loss of Semana Santa, Sevilla’s Feria de Abril, the Jerez moto GP and many more key Andalucia events has sent seismic shock waves through the region that will have knock-on effects for most businesses, whether they deal directly with tourists or not.
As the nation enters into an enforced lockdown until April 10 and maybe beyond, the Olive Press asked a series of top expat businesses how they are coping and what measures they are taking to stay afloat.
Trying for the knot
“We are still talking to clients around the world about future bookings,” says Scott (below) from Sunshine Weddings Spain, which has been splicing couples in Andalucia for nearly two decades.
“But 2020 will become the first year the wedding season does not kick-off as planned. All weddings in April have been postponed and those in May are up in the air.
“Right now we are working on a day-to-day basis. Nobody knows how long coronavirus will affect us, that is out of our hands.
“But what is in our hands, is to reassure our couples they are not alone and that we will do everything possible to guarantee their perfect wedding, whether sooner or later.
“I have been working around the clock since to speak with each couple to discuss concerns and to seek solutions.
“My days have begun with calls to Australia and Singapore and with chats to clients in the US, Canada and Ecuador.
“This is an unsettling time for everyone, but if we are all patient and heed the rules, the lockdown period will be as brief as possible.”
People will embrace contact after isolation
“We have had to shut down as it’s hard to maintain a two-metre distance as hands-on practitioners,” explains Estelle Mitchell (above), who has run Bodyworks Health Clinic physiotherapy and wellness centre, near San Pedro, for the last 15 years.
“Most of our team of 10 are solely hands-on and need the patient in the same room, so are unable to work, while some can do some work online.
“We are offering video and telephone consultations where appropriate, and are giving as much advice and support as we can.
“Fortunately our clients have been incredibly understanding and supportive and we are trying to do the same for them.
“Right now the future is a blurry place, I think this situation will create some big shifts, but for better or worse, I don’t know.
“What I can see are people embracing contact after isolation and I’ll continue to do my best to help people stay active and pain free.”
This is a challenge, but we are resilient
“We have seen a drop off of clients as companies look for ways to decrease their costs,” explains Georgina Shaw (above), of Shaw Marketing Services, based on the Costa del Sol.
“Unfortunately, marketing is often one of the first things to be cut, even though in times like these you need it more than ever.
“Our clients have been great and I know they wish they didn’t have to cut back, but we understand they need to control their bottom line and will use us again as soon as able.
“Given our business launched during the financial crisis 12 years ago, I know we’re resilient and can cope with tough times, but there’s no doubt this is a challenge.
“One thing for sure, there will be a lag while the customers come back into the restaurants and shops before the owners feel confident to resume their marketing efforts, so we have to be prepared to feel the effects for quite a long time to come.
“However, on the flip side, once doors open again and normality resumes, businesses will need marketing more than ever to boost their profits and so I hope that will lead to new clients and campaigns for us.”
Workouts on the web
“Because of the state of alarm we had to close because you can’t do anything in groups,” explains Adam Turner at Turnilla Yoga, Estepona.
“Also we can’t travel to give people private classes because it’s not deemed as essential work.”
“What we’re doing instead is making videos putting them on Youtube so people can practice out of the studio.
“Hopefully things will go back to normal fairly soon but until then we’re trying to make the most of the time we get to spend at home with our kids.”
I have the virus but we won’t stop the dance
“Plans, projects, master classes, excursions, competitions, everything has been put on hold,” says Sarah Vogelin of Kizz Latin Dance, Benalmadena.
“Even worse I have caught the virus and am staying indoors in isolation.
“I’ve been bedridden for the last ten days, tired and drained. Isolated from my husband and children.
But I have been staying positive and making plans of how to survive when back on my feet.
“I’m going to offer online master classes, daily routines for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels in the three disciplines I specialise in.”
Our work has gone viral
“I am far busier than usual and even have regular students complaining that they can’t find slots in my calendar to book lessons,” said John Wilkins, an online language teacher.
“I have seen my bookings double since the lockdown, with clients taking advantage of the extra time to brush up on language skills.
“However, sadly my partner who had just started a new job just four days before the lockdown in a local restaurant, has been forced to stay at home.
“He’s finding it difficult to cope with the boredom and of course it’s been a hit on our finances with him not bringing money in.”
Cooking up plans
“We are posting daily videos and recipes on our social media channels to encourage people to cook during this difficult time,” reports Mariola Ustaran at the Food Room cookery school.
“Cooking is a great activity for adults and kids to take their minds off their problems and get creative, so I hope that sharing our recipes and videos will give them more ideas and inspiration.
“Many clients have written me nice messages and hopefully they will come back to us after this period. I am trying to take each day as it comes, so I don’t worry too much.
“Hopefully things will get back to normal and people will come back to our cooking school to learn and have fun.
“Also, I think people will be having more events after this lockdown so our catering and private chef service will be in demand.”
Business as usual
“Although our offices are closed we are offering the same service as usual,” says Sonia Fendley, of STM Nummos Life, specialists in private health insurance.
“Our clients are located in different parts of the world – as well as Spain – so we can continue to offer advice and support via the telephone and internet in much the same way.
“Everyone we have talked to has been grateful for any assistance we have been able to give.
“Unlike other businesses, I don’t foresee much change after this is over, as people will continue to require health insurance. Some will also be grateful for the peace of mind it offers them during times like these.
“Others may wish they had it, so decide to take out a policy.”
Zero hotel staff is a 20 year first
“We are learning to live in a near-total lockdown situation.” explains Andy Chapell (above), boss of Benaojan’s popular Molino del Santo hotel.
“We were due to open on March 27 but now we have no idea when we will be able to welcome guests again.
“Things are changing very quickly – and we hope they may change just as quickly in a positive way and that we will be able to open again sooner rather than later. Who knows? We are of course concerned for our staff who did not start working this season.
“We met to tell them of the decision on the terrace and at a safe distance. It was so strange not to exchange hugs and handshakes – we all, without question, kept well apart.
“Even Sergio the gardener has been made redundant so for the first time in over 20 years there is no-one employed at the hotel.
“The staff will get a minimum payment from the government and, on the positive side, there is great support within the community.
“We will get through this and hope that many of us will slow down the pace of our lives and be a little more concerned for the well-being of others in the future.”
The extra mile
“In the first week of the lockdown we had 60,000 euros-worth of cancellations,” says Dave McQueen, owner of Alicante Transfers and Benidorm Holidays. “We nearly went under.”
“We’ve since had to keep up with ever-changing rules and regulations to our VTC licences – from two passengers in a four-seater, to four in an eight-seater, to just one passenger in any private taxi.
“We’ve even had to put a 16-seater minibuses out just to pick up two people so one passenger could sit in the front and one passenger sit in the back.
“Obviously there’s been a financial burden. But still we‘re the only transport company still providing a service at the moment to Alicante airport.
“We will stay open as long as possible to make sure we get all tourists out.
“And our customers have been absolutely amazing with us. We’ve offered cash refunds or unlimited time vouchers to change the date of transfer – they’re all choosing to change dates.
“Just to show how loyal our customers have been: in the first day of panic, we had over 150 5-star reviews saying how hard we worked to keep everyone informed, also through the Olive Press.
“The consulate weren’t answering calls – so we became the only source of real valuable info.
“One of our posts just had a reach of 6.3 million views in the last seven days, just trying to support people and make them aware of the situation.”