Coronavirus: Madrid’s tourism trade struggling as visitors stay away amid pandemic

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Unsold sightseeing tickets, empty souvenir shops and deserted cafes: it’s definitely not your typical summer in Madrid.

The streets are abnormally quiet and the few tourists that are there are enjoying the free space.

“I like it,” Emil Andreica, a visitor from Austria told Euronews. “It’s wonderful. Looks good and there are not so many tourists!”

But for business owners at Madrid landmark Plaza Mayor, it’s a total disaster and 20% of them are likely to close for good, reports Euronews correspondent Jaime Velazquez.

Jose Antonio Aparico, president of the plaza’s business owners’ association, said “on a normal summer, like in 2019, there would be around 50% occupancy. Now, you have two tables, three tables [filled]. Restaurants and cafes in the centre can serve up to 10 million tourists but now they [the tourist] are nowhere to be found.”

James Blick owns a tour-operating company and he has been taking dozens of visitors on his gastro-tapas circuits around the city for eight years. But travel restrictions imposed by the US and the UK to prevent the spread of COVID-19, have dried up his two main markets.

“We still have a few people employed, we still have some online experiences, but my concern is that we will literally run out of time and money if this goes on for two years or something like that,” he told Euronews.

Arrivals to the country fell by 97% in June, and despite the government rushing to reopen borders and businesses after a four-month lockdown, tourists didn’t return in July.

The Prado Museum is one of the main tourist attractions in Madrid. In July only 50,000 people visited the venue. That’s 220,000 people less than the previous year.

And hotels are also suffering.

Clara Sanz, the revenue manager at Hotel Europa says that, because of the pandemic, the occupation rate in her establishment fell by 60% compared to July last year.

But the city council remains optimistic that once the conferences and exhibitions restart in September that things will improve.

Sabine Schwanz, the council’s travel, trade and connectivity representative, told Euronews that online searches for Madrid had steadily increased in July.

“We’re almost on 2019 levels. So the intention of coming to Madrid is quite high.”

But saving Spain’s tourism sector, which accounts for around 11% of its GDP, maybe harder than anticipated after a summer that most consider all but lost.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Spain has recorded more than 305,700 infections since the beginning of the pandemic and over 28,400 people have died from COVID-19.

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