The Diputacion (city council) has announced a grand scheme to fly 50,000 tourists via 20 extra flights a week into Almeria airport this summer.
Reading between the lines, the Diputacion has offered travel agencies across 13 different countries (including the nordic countries, Serbia, Portugal, Iceland, Russia, Poland, etc etc) discounts and free landing fees to bring the tourists here rather than elsewhere.
By having the local government pay for cheaper flights, the tour ops can offer cheaper holidays in this area.
So far, so good? Not really.
You see, the trouble with this sort of “all inclusive” hols is that once the tourists land, they are whisked off to the local hotels and, since all is included in their trip, they have no incentive to venture outside their hotel to spend a single euro cent in the local shops and restaurants.
What’s more, the local hotels don’t really want them to, they want them inside drinking free (and cheap!) beer, but having to buy the icecreams and crisps the kids want.
And don’t argue that the hotels are bolstering the local employment figures, because they aren’t. They are employing young people on government assisted work schemes for the summer, catering in from outside companies, and closing for the winter.
And the profits are staying abroad – either with the Russian tour operator, or the British owned hotel chain. The only money coming here is crisps and chips money, which pays the wages and the local cleaning bill.
Meanwhile, residents taxes are going on these schemes. How do you think the Diputacion is paying for the airport landing fees?
So yes, it´s great to get this core base of tourist into the area to keep the main hotels open – but it´s not a panacea for the area, and it should be a central prop to the whole tourism strategy, which, frankly, I don’t think it is.
We need to get these people into the area to keep the hotels open, but the Diputacion can’t now sit down and think their work is over. Knowing that there is a core of tourists in the area, they need to be a) getting these “low cost” tourists out and about (low tourist guides? Free buses to the ferias?) and B) spending extra cash to get higher spending guests into the area, knowing that the basic infrastructure is being supported by the all inclusive brigade.
It´s a start, and 50,000 tourists are welcome, but it should be just the start – not the grand finale.