Local Daily News 12th January

Omicron puts the province's tourism to a minimum: "It is the second worst winter in history"

The ‘omicron tsunami’ has fulfilled all the forecasts and has left the province’s tourist activity going through its worst moment since the end of the state of alarm. “It is the second worst winter in the history of tourism after 2021, when everything was closed due to the pandemic,” Hosbec president Toni Mayor recalled this Tuesday.

The hotel management association released yesterday the balance of occupancy for the first week of the year, in which the effects of the Christmas holidays were still noticed, with occupations that have touched 44% in Benidorm, but has warned that, once the school and work year have resumed, the forecasts “become complicated again.”

As a consequence, hotel companies have once again scheduled the closure of many of the few establishments that still remain open, given the poor prospects of the markets, both national and international. Even so, Toni Mayor has highlighted how “Benidorm currently maintains some 50 hotels open, which represent some 18,000 beds, a not inconsiderable amount” and has defended that this figure “is much higher than many other Spanish destinations”.

On the positive side, Hosbec assures that “there is an important mattress of tourists who defy the coronavirus and who do not deviate their travel plans. Of them, in addition, many are foreigners.” Among the most striking data, it stands out that 34% of the tourists staying in Benidorm last week were British, when the restrictions imposed by the Boris Johnson Government had not yet been lifted. In the rest of the destinations, the international market is also being essential to sustain existing tourism: 55% of hotel clients are international both on the Costa Blanca and in Benidorm, while national tourism barely represents 45% of the total.

The sector has ensured that it is preparing to face “the most difficult weeks since the end of the state of alarm”, waiting for the improvement of health data and infections that allow to recover the flow of tourists. The president of the businessmen has advanced a first forecast of recovery: “We trust that normality can arrive at the end of February, with expectations of facing spring and summer without restrictions and with a normalized epidemiological situation.”

The tourist capital of the Costa Blanca saw its average occupancy rate reduced last week by nearly 10 percent compared to the previous week. In this way, the average occupancy of the destination stands at 43.7% for the days between the 3rd and 9th of January, a period in which national tourists accounted for 44.3% of the total, leaving 55.7% of importance for the international market.

This data shows how Benidorm is once again the destination with the highest incidence of international tourists, within which the British tourism maintains its position as the main issuer of the international market and is consolidated with 34.2% of the total occupancy quota. At a long distance, in second and third position, we find the Belgian and Dutch markets with 8.1% and 8% respectively. In last place we find the German market, which this week accounted for 1.4% of the total number of tourists staying. The rest of international markets will not reach 1% representativeness during the period studied.

Short-term stays made during the weekend have raised the average occupancy to 45.1%, which represents a notable increase compared to the general average for the week.

As for the forecast for the current week, it is expected to end up reaching 32.5%, that – should it occur – would confirm the pessimistic expectations of the sector after the Christmas holidays. Currently there are a total of 48 hotels associated with HOSBEC open in Benidorm, which represents 42.5%.

With regard to the rest of the destinations on the Costa Blanca, the average occupancy for the first week of the year reached 34.6%, leaving 8 percentage points on the road in relation to what was registered in the last week of 2021.

Regarding the weekend, the values ​​were exceeded, reaching an occupancy of 39%, which represents an improvement of 7 percentage points compared to the average for the week.

On the Costa Blanca, international tourists also have a very important role, thus reaching a representation of 55.1%. The national market represents 44.9%. Behind Spain, the main source markets are Belgian and British, with 15.4% and 7.6% respectively. Next are the Netherlands (6.2%), France (3.3%) and Norway with 3.1%. In last place we find the German (2.7%) and Italian (1.3%) markets. The rest of international markets will not reach 1% representativeness during the period studied.

Pharmacies want to charge for notifying the Ministry of Health of the positives for covid of the antigen tests

Pharmacies want to charge for notifying the Ministry of Health of the cases that they detect through the antigen tests carried out in the pharmacy offices. The charge for this service currently keeps the initiative on hold, which was agreed last week by the three schools of Pharmacy of the Valencian Community with the Ministry to be able to register the positive cases detected through the antigen tests and notify them to the authorities and sanitary facilities in order to lighten the workload for the saturated health centres.

Sources from these professional associations explain that payment for this service is currently a stumbling block for the initiative to start in the Valencian Community. “The Ministry wants us to provide this service without any kind of consideration and pharmacies have to cover a series of expenses that have already been made,” say these same sources. These expenses include the adaptation of computer equipment and the development of programs that allow the communication of each positive case that is detected in the antigen test.

Pharmacists also want to be paid for the protective material that they will have to use for taking samples of antigen tests. “What is not possible is that we are going to save the Ministry money and give a higher quality service to the patient all at zero cost,” say the same sources.

The charge for performing the antigen tests and communicating the result to the  Ministry of Health was not raised in the agreement that had been reached with the Department of Health. This Tuesday afternoon a meeting is scheduled between the representatives of the three schools and the Ministry to try to unblock the situation. From the College of Pharmacists of Valencia they have indicated that the patient will have to pay for this service.

The system, voluntary for both users and pharmacies, consists of transmitting through a computer link the positive results of antigen tests carried out in the pharmacy itself. In order for pharmacies to be able to register and directly notify the public health system of the result of these antigen tests in case of positive, they must be done in person at the pharmacy office itself and users voluntarily consent to provide personal data so that be informed.

Is Spain headed for another property bubble?

There has been an uptick in prices in the Spanish real estate market, but it can’t be classified as a bubble. Or at least not yet, in an opinion that is widely shared by market analysts and academics.

Housing will continue to get more expensive in 2022 in line with economic growth and inflation. Though the European Central Bank (ECB) has flagged up the sector’s “exuberance” – a term used to substitute “bubble” – it appears to be referring to the housing market in other countries rather than in Spain. But in a sector increasingly exposed to global investment trends, a degree of contamination cannot be ruled out.

According to Ignacio de la Torre, chief economist at the asset management firm Arcano Partners, the current situation is linked to affordability. In a bid to assess the risk of a bubble, he suggests analysing the so-called effort rate: the portion of income a household allocates to housing payments. “Anything above 35% means we have a stressed market, and Spain was at 46% in 2006,” he explains in reference to the peak of Spain’s previous housing bubble. Right now, with that percentage lying between 30% and 32%, it’s a different scenario. “The problem is when houses go up in price,” he adds. “If they go up 9% as in Germany, or 20% as in the US, it leads to a bubble.”

Housing has become more expensive in Spain in 2021, contrary to what many experts were predicting a year ago. The National Statistics Institute (INE) will not publish the official data until March, but the annual growth rate up to the third quarter stood at 4.2%, showing a clear upward trend. Meanwhile, CaixaBank’s research service, which quantified the average rise in 2021 at 1.9% (well below other sources), believes that the rate will double and reach 4% in 2022.

“There are some worrying symptoms,” says Gonzalo Bernardos, director of the Master’s degree in Real Estate Consultancy, Management and Development at Barcelona University. However, he sees the risk of no more than a “light bubble” and makes it clear that the situation is very different from the 2008 global downturn: “If there is no financial crisis and the banks are not in big trouble, there would only be a market freeze and prices would fall,” he says. At the root of what could lead to a bubble is, he says, the imbalance between the supply of new houses and growing demand, but he stresses that a bubble of whatever dimensions would not, in any case, happen until 2024.

There were around 100,000 housing starts in 2021, similar to pre-pandemic figures but far from the excesses at the beginning of the century; the year 2006 saw the number of new units soar to more than 750,000. In Bernardos’ opinion, the current number is inadequate. “A low housing starts figure raises prices and many buyers resort to the resale home sector, which can generate unjustified price increases there,” he says. Since last summer, both home sales and mortgages have reached levels not seen in more than a decade. The question is whether this rise is merely due to market paralysis in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Paloma Taltavull, who teaches applied economics at Alicante University, also points to a shortage of supply. “Construction has been minimal since 2008,” she says. This has sparked market tensions in areas such as regional capitals and centers of strong economic activity, she notes. But Taltavull all but rules out the possibility of a bubble: from her perspective, this could only apply in a situation in which rises are not linked to explanatory factors. And in her opinion, right now there are plenty of reasons for the price hike, such as the tendency among homeowners to move due to lifestyle changes triggered by the pandemic, a trend “that is happening all over the world and must be one of the reasons why prices have shot up in some countries,” she says.

However, the international outlook is bleak. As early as mid-2021, a Bloomberg analysis concluded that “real estate prices around the world are flashing the kind of bubble warnings that haven’t been seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.” Later in the year, supervisory bodies such as the ECB and the Federal Reserve warned of “exuberance” and “vulnerabilities” in housing markets.

Covid-19 infections continue to skyrocket in the province with 6,562 new cases in one day

The omicron variant continues, day by day, breaking all records due to the speed with which it spreads among the population. The province of Alicante has added 6,562 new positives of covid-19 in a single day confirmed through an antigen test or a PCR test, according to the data update offered this Tuesday by the Department of Universal Health and Public Health, which raises the number of people from Alicante who have been infected throughout the pandemic to a total of 274,708.

In the Community as a whole, the new cases reported in the last 24 hours amount to 16,364, of which, in addition to the 6,562 in the province, 2,451 have been diagnosed in Castellón and another 7,350 in Valencia. With them, the total number of infected people rises to 758,697 since March 2020.

On the other hand, 9,866 patients with coronavirus have been discharged. In this way, the number of people who have overcome the disease since the pandemic began in the Valencian Community now amounts to 631,182 people. By provinces, registrations are distributed as follows: 70,617 in Castellón, 226,654 in Alicante and 333,855 in Valencia. The total of unassigned registrations remains at 56.

Community hospitals currently have 1,384 people admitted, 204 of them in the ICU. Of these, 200 are in the province of Castellón, 27 in the ICU and 700 in the province of Valencia, 108 in the ICU. Meanwhile, with regard to Alicante, the number of hospitalized patients currently stands at 484, which means 26 more admitted than the previous day, while critical patients seem to be stabilized, with 69 people in the ICU, one less than those notified on Monday.

From the Ministry of Health, likewise, 25 deaths have been reported due to complications of the coronavirus that would have occurred between the 23rd of December and the 10th of January, but that had not been notified prior to Monday’s update. They are 13 women, between 54 and 93 years old, and 12 men, between 68 and 95 years of age. Of these, nine correspond to people who had their address in the province of Alicante. The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic amounts to 8,244: 3,170 in Alicante, 928 in the province of Castellón and 4,146 in Valencia.

According to the registered data, there are currently 130,712 active cases, which represents 16.97% of the total positives.



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