Hope for a last minute recovery before the end of the year after poor results during the Puríssima holidays

Discouraging hotel occupancy rates and low commercial trade during this year’s Puríssima holiday clearly display the effects of the financial crisis in Catalonia and the whole of Spain. The Catalan tourism sector senses that a change has taken place in the profile of visitors to the territory. They generally come from nearby areas, look for offers on the Internet and wait until the last minute to make reservations.

CNA / Sara Gómez

December 13, 2011 11:13 AM

Barcelona (ACN). – There are many reasons for the poor results from the Puríssima holidays in Catalonia such as the fact that this year the public holidays fell during the working week, the financial situation has worsened since 2010 and a lack of snow on the slopes caused a drop in the number of people travelling to the ski resorts of the Catalan Pyrenees. The hotel and retail sectors are far from satisfied. Occupation rates range from 30% in Tarragona’s rural houses to 70% in the mountain counties of Girona. Shopkeepers and hoteliers are hoping that the disappointing results will be forgotten with a positive Christmas and New Year period.

According to the Secretary General of Catalonia’s Commercial Confederation Miquel Àngel Fraile, shopkeepers hope to reach 10% of their total Christmas sales during the Puríssima holidays. Fraile pointed out that shopping areas generally gather more window shoppers than buyers at the start of the month of December.

The Secretary General of Catalonia’s Commercial Confederation believes that Christmas sales will exceed last year’s figures and foresees stores experiencing a turnover increase of between 2% and 4% despite Catalonia’s difficult economic situation.

One of the main attractions of this Christmas period in downtown Barcelona is the ice rink located right in the heart of the city at Catalunya Square. The initiative, promoted by shopkeepers, opened eight days ago, and given the large number of visitors, “has been a major success”, explained Fraile.. It is these people that they are hoping to entice into their stores.

The lack of snow takes its toll on the counties of the Pyrenees

In the northern province of Girona, the Spokesperson for Girona’s Hostelry Federation, Marina Figueras, highlighted that the lack of snow on the ski slopes and the inability to open over the holiday days has greatly affected hotel revenue in the area. However, mountain tourism helped to maintain the sector afloat. “It was cold and the mountain resorts of Vallter 2000 and Vall de Núria were the only two able to open all their facilities”, stated Figueras. The ski resort Vallter 2000 in Ripollès County attracted 14,000 visitors during the Puríssima holidays and could open 80% of its facilities, which sources believe are “very positive numbers”.

Cerdanya and Ripollès Counties, both located in the Catalan Pyrenees, were the areas with the highest hotel occupancy rates–between 60% and 70%– in contrast to Girona’s coastline, where the occupation rate only reached 50%. Girona’s Hostelry Federation said they were“happy” with the numbers obtained “in these difficult times”, although they expected “higher occupancy rates” –the average stay for tourists was extremely low due to the financial crisis–.

Catalonia’s main ski resort did not receive visitors

The mountain resort of Baquèira Beret, in Val d’Aran County in the Province of Lleida, could not open during the holidays due to the total lack of snow despite a period of thermal inversion. The unfavourable situation of the ski station, which sold more than 50% of passes in the Catalan Pyrenees last year, means that the season has not started off well in the Pyrenees Region of the Province of Lleida. The Director of the Tourist Board of Lleida Council, Jordi Blanch, stated, “the occupancy results for this holiday do not match the initial enthusiasm of the sector”. According to Blanch, the main issue has been a lack of snow, however the days on which the holidays fell this year must also be taken into account. “These holidays have been a real blow but everything will be ready for Christmas”, said Blanch, who said rural tourism was the saving grace of the holiday period thanks to 60% occupancy rates due to its lack of dependence on snow.

Tarragona’s Costa Daurada benefits from proximity tourism

Hoteliers from Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda, located along the southern Catalan coast of Tarragona, believe that they have reached their forecasts of 60% occupancy, although they have been cautious when evaluating the second holiday weekend, as it was not as successful as the first. This percentage contrasts with the low 30% occupancy rate in rural houses of the same territory. “There has been two different parts; the first part of the holidays, which we believe went quite well and the second, which has not been as good as expected”, explained Teresa Clave, spokesperson of the Hotel Association of Salou-Cambrils-La Pineda.

Free hotel beds for the Puríssima holidays totalled 5,500 of the 45,000 available in the area during high season, and the average overnight stay of visitors did not exceed three nights. The profile of the tourist that visited the Costa Daurada these past few days is someone that has travelled by car, mainly from Catalonia, the Basque Country, Navarre and Aragon.

Hopes pinned on Christmas and New Year

The Secretary General of Catalonia’s Commercial Confederation explained that December 10th was one of the best sales days in the Puríssima holidays, but the second weekend was not as good as the next one is expected to be, when people will have received their Christmas bonus or will be about to receive their salaries. Rural houses in Tarragona’s Terres del Ebre have confirmed reservations that show a tendency for the rental of houses to celebrate the holidays with a big group of people. On the other hand, travel agencies are offering special package deals for coastal areas, which include accommodation, food and day trips. The inclination in both cases, however, is that of past years: reservations are made last minute and depending on the offers available on the Internet.