BUSINESS unions in the Costa del Sol resort of Marbella have been left holding their heads after a disappointing Holy Week has added to the drastic situation sweeping the town.
Travel restrictions, lack of tourism and missing government help during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 50% of businesses to close their doors according to unions.
Enrique Guerrero, head of the Marbella Small and Medium business association, has warned that over 15,000 businesses in the town have had to permanently pull down their shutters thanks to the pandemic.
This represents around 20%-30% of the total business infrastructure of what is essentially a tourism based economy explained Guerrero.
“Areas such as Ricardo Soriano, Puerto Banus and the Marbella old Town have been hit even worse, in some cases, 50% of businesses have shut down.” Guerrero told local website Malaga Hoy.
The Easter weekend didn’t offer much rest bite either, with an estimated 20% decrease in turnover across the four days compared to last year, however a massive 95% compared to pre pandemic 2019.
Nahuel Klappenbach, spokesman for the Merchant Association for Marbella has lamented the closing of the borders for the catastrophe that the resort is facing.
“The perimeter closures have killed us,” said Klappenbach, “sales in the area have been non existent.”
Experts have also cited the high cost of leases for commercial spaces that continue to be requested despite falling trade, including a potential increase in municipal rents for terraces, for many businesses having no option but to close.
President of the Puerto Banus Entrepreneurs Association, Giuseppe Russo, claims that the government has favoured large multinational businesses over small independent family run firms.
“If there are no visitors then there is no business, and when large franchises with importance to the European market can continue to trade via mail order, there is no hope for small shops and cafe’s that rely on passing trade.” said Russo.
Experts have also lamented the government’s lack of clarity and assistance towards tourist dependent businesses and the self employed, a sector that currently does not fall under the ‘Classification of Economic Activities (CNAE)’
President of the Center for Tourism Initiatives (CIT) Juan José González has noted some positives however over the Easter Break, with hotels not performing as badly as many predicted.
Low occupancy hotels and five star luxury hotels have recorded ‘better than expected’ results, as have five-star luxury establishments, however nowhere near normal operating figures.
Russo explains that vaccination is the only way that the resort can fully recover from the past 13 months.
“The only way that summer 2021 can properly resume is that we speed up our vaccination process, a plan that so far has been left behind compared to many other EU countries.”
“We need tourists to return to Marbella, and once they do, we hope that businesses will begin to return to the resort.”