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Speech at presentation of Plan to Boost Tourism Sector - towards safe and sustainable post-COVID-19 tourism

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Thursday 18 June 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ_ President of the Government

A very good day to you. The video's moving, isn't it? The truth is that I hadn't had a chance to watch it before and it has filled me with excitement. Congratulations to those who have made this campaign possible.

Dear vice-presidents of the government and ministers,

Dear Secretary-General Zurab, thank you as ever for your support and your words.

Dear regional tourism councillors,

Dear representatives of the CEOE, UGT and CC.OO.

Dear representatives, in short, of the tourism sector,

Ladies and gentlemen, and colleagues that also accompany me here at the work we are doing in Moncloa Palace.

The first thing I would like to do is pass on the gratitude of the Government of Spain to all those who have made this reactivation plan, this plan to boost the industry, possible, and secondly to the whole sector, present here to support and back it through their presence.

Our gratitude at this being an essential Plan to Boost Tourism, and as already mentioned, one that is decisive for the re-launch of the Spanish economy. And because in the era opening up, and this has also been mentioned by some of the preceding speakers here, it is more important than ever. We came out together and halted the spread of the virus, and clearly we must reactivate and set back in motion our economy together, because this is a great country, with great attributes and strengths - we have seen this on the video, and we believe this which is why we want to share them with the whole world.

Tourism, it has been said, is a strategic sector for our country - you have the macro-economic figures, the consolidated figures, in GDP terms, in terms of jobs, but I would like to mention - as has also been mentioned by the mayor, with whom we share many things, including a passion for basketball, both he and his councillors, who have also raised this in his presence, not only in words but also in actions - means social and territorial structuring for our country and for regional governments and local authorities. And due to its clear importance in our image and reputation overseas, the fantastic reputation our country has which benefits, in short, all economic activities, not only the tourism sector.

Consequently, the sector is not only one of the pillars of our economy, it also forms a central part of our way of life. Thus, it not only affects the many inbound tourists we enjoyed before the pandemic, and I am convinced that many more will come after we get over this pandemic that has hit us, with the involvement of all the public institutions, economic agenda, social stakeholders… Hence, it not only affects inbound tourists, but also most of our fellow countrymen, since, as well as being an economic driver, tourism forms part of our customs, our routines and our well-being - leisure, trips, meetings with friends, with our families. Tourism in Spain is not just something for others and by others; it is something that is ours. And I believe it is very important to underline that.

Our people enjoy Spain, its incredible nature, its villages, cities, our sun, beaches, mountains, cultural tourism, monumental tourism, in short, all our services and tourist offer. And look, here, since the start of the state of emergency, the government has clearly adopted different rafts of measures with specific economic and labour content.

The ERTEs have been mentioned here - the temporary lay-off plans. I believe that when we talk about structural reforms, the ERTS are fortunately here to stay, as an element of flexibility, an element of adaptability in external circumstances, such as those that have occurred in this crisis, as an alternative to mass dismissals, of which these ERTEs are a clear alternative. But prior to that, we did some other things.

There are the ICO lines, which have financed close to 83,000 companies. We are talking about 83,000 companies obtaining ICO lines of credit in the tourist, leisure and culture sectors in just three months. And I would like to highlight this because you not only have the political vision, the political will-power, but you have all the management behind that being carried out, in this case by ICO [Official Credit Institute], which I can tell you is unprecedented by the ICO in historical terms, as a national experience, and also in relative terms compared with other European countries.

83,000 companies, with an amount in excess of 10.5 billion euros. Tourism is the sector to most benefit from this line of credit, to which you also have to add the 400 million euros and 4,724 operations under the Thomas Cook COVID-19 Line for the tourism and sector and related activities which was set in motion I seem to remember, minister, a few days after starting to talk about COVID-19 in Europe.

As I said before, and you are well aware of this, more than 147,000 sector companies have signed up to the ERTEs, which have protected, as the Secretary-General of CC.OO. rightly mentioned before, 1,120,000 workers from the tourist sector.

And as well as these general measures, the government reacted from the outset to the specific needs of the sector, through measures to incentivise the registration of seasonal workers - which is very important at an employment level in the tourism, leisure and hotel and catering sector - and special lines of credit at discount rates. The government has also worked hard at a European level to push through stimulus measures to help companies and workers, among which I feel it is noteworthy to highlight, because it was the subject of debate at the Council of Ministers, making the rules on slots for airlines more flexible, together with hiring conditions.

In short, all of these types of measures must continue. But now is the time to go one step further, as mentioned by the Regional Councillor for the Basque Country. I believe it is time to reactivate, to once again boost, as the Plan is rightly named, the tourism sector. Which is why I am tremendously pleased to today present to all of you this work on which the government has been closely involved and worked hard on with all of you, and with the rest of the institutions in recent weeks. We must set this in motion urgently, because it is decisive to enable its recovery and I feel that as well the good news, thanks to the development in controlling the epidemic, of us being able to bring forward the opening up of the borders, for example, with the Schengen countries as of Saturday, and of alleviating, as far as possible, the adverse effects of the pandemic on its activity to thus ensure the continuity and competitiveness of the sector.

The Plan we present today has a provision of more than 4.25 billion euros, and is structured around five main pillars:

The first is to enhance confidence in Spain as a country, and as a 360º safe destination, and in this regard, we should commit to ensuring that all the links in the value chain of the tourist sector incorporate health and hygiene measures that inspire confidence in travellers. As already mentioned here, 21 guides of specifications have been drawn up to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which include measures to disinfect spaces and other cleaning conditions, rules on capacity and social distancing promoted by the sector and endorsed by the health authorities

Furthermore, the creation of a special sticker is promoted to publicise those establishments that are committed to following the indications contained in the guides. And we are pioneers in introducing pilot projects to open up the country to inbound tourists through safe tourism corridors, the first of which is in the Balearic Islands, with the arrival of some 10,900 German visitors.

The second pillar relates to measures to support business activity to reactivate the sector. To attend to the credit needs of companies operating in the tourism sector, under the ICO line of guarantees, a preferential tranche for the sum of 2.5 billion euros will be introduced for the tourism sector - 2.5 billion euros. In addition, a mechanism is established that allows a grace period of 12 months to be authorised for those financial operations with a mortgage guarantee whereby property is used for an activity in the tourism sector, including accommodation. And the Plan provides for something which is very important - a moratorium on the leasing quotas for unscheduled coaches. In addition, as part of the strategy to reactivate tourism AENA has approved a commercial incentive, that you are aware of, in the form of reductions in the landing fee, which will contribute to a rapid recovery of air traffic in Spain. The aim of all these measures, as you know, is to support the productive and social fabric, and minimise, as far as possible, the impact of the crisis and facilitate the recovery of economic activity as soon as the health situation allows.

Thirdly, we are going to improve the competitiveness of the tourism sector. As mentioned here, we must think in the short term, but we must also think in the medium and the long term. 850 million euros will be allocated to boosting a model based on sustainability and digitalisation. As mentioned here by one of the speakers, what the pandemic has done is speed up some changes that were coming anyway, and consequently what we must do is get to work. That is why sustainability and digitalisation, which are here to stay, fortunately, must be the tools we need to continue strengthening competitiveness and sustainability in the 21st Century.

The tourism industry must adapt - I am aware that it is adapting, and moreover, at a fast pace - and get ready to harness the potential of global trends that are reshaping the profile of travellers. The Plan provides for the development of programmes - as mentioned here already - for training, skills-building and mentoring for the tourism sector.

The fourth pillar is something the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism has been talking a great deal about for the last two years now, which is Smart Tourism - the creation of a new Smart Tourism Observatory. This crisis has made many things clear, including the need, more than ever, for indicators, with data, with information in real time, to predict the different scenarios and consequently the public policies to be implemented. We are also going to strengthen the Smart Tourism System (Spanish acronym: SIT) to analyse supply and demand for national tourism.

And lastly, in fifth place, we are going to use all the marketing and promotional tools to position our country, as the title dictates, as a safe and sustainable destination, both with a view to national tourism with such campaigns as we have just seen, and also clearly international tourism. The reactivation will take place, firstly, in the domestic market, as is obvious, and then focus on the nearest markets. And consequently, what we are going to do is strengthen online tools, develop a strong medium- and long-term promotional strategy. And to this end, we are working in a coordinated fashion, and I would like to also underline this, because this is one of the experiences that I have most welcomed during these tough weeks, the collaboration with all the regional governments.

We are working in coordination with them, and the promotional bodies, on a new international communication campaign with the aim of recovering inbound tourists that choose our country each year for their holidays.

In short, it is time to press on, it is time to again boost the tourism sector, we will have the borders open with the Schengen countries as from 22 June, and with third countries as from 1 July, and hence we must press on. The recovery of tourism is one of our strengths. It has been in the past, and as has been said here, it will be in the future, in the very near future. The tourism sector offers safety. And this is one of the great guarantees and strengths of our country in relative terms vis-à-vis our competitors. Our country is much more than just a destination; Spain is a model of how to do things right and well, because we do them together, jointly, as we do here today, representing all the sectors, and clearly all the public authorities. So that the near future can be a time of stability and sustainability we need to continue to foster and build this unity, because through unity I am convinced that the recovery will not only be quicker, but more effective, because we are going to work together in the short, medium and long term.

In short, you have the figures. Since 2015, dear Secretary-General, Spain has held a position of leadership in the Tourist Competitiveness Index drawn up by the World Economic Forum. We hold second place globally in tourist spending, with 89.86 billion euros of spending in 2019. We are the second ranked country in the world in the number of inbound tourists, with more than 83 million international tourists in 2019. I sometimes remember, speaking with the minister, that we thought it was nigh on impossible to beat the targets we set for ourselves, but thanks to the know-how of the sector year-after-year: 81 million, then 82 million, 83 million… I am convinced, minister, dear friends, that we will manage to hit these figures again soon.

We are the second ranked country in the world, as I said, in terms of inbound tourists, and furthermore, our country is ranked third by the International Congress and Convention Association in 2019, which is also so important for our country. We have spoken here about diversification and logically, business tourism, congress and convention tourism, is fundamental. Let's remember that precisely when we truly started to speak about COVID-19 in our country, it was due to a very important convention in the city of Barcelona which we were forced to cancel because of the situation.

In short, we have more than enough grounds to commit to this sector, which means no more and no less than committing, as has been mentioned here, to our country, both within and beyond our borders.

We have now come out of the toughest phase of the pandemic; however, the figures beyond the European continent are not good and this information is worrying. But on the European continent, and particularly in Spain, it is clear that we have come out of the toughest phase of the pandemic, and moreover, we have come through it together and I am sure that we will also address the economic recovery on a united front. Spain will continue to head up global tourism through unity and it will do so after this hard blow, because the sector will be able to rely, do not doubt this, on the active support of the government and of all public institutions. We must harness this moment as well to look further into the line of work that we had initiated before the start of the pandemic, which is sustainability.

I feel that this is one of the critical elements that will define the competitiveness of the sector, not only throughout the Spanish economy, but particularly of the tourism sector in the coming years. I feel it is very important to stop measuring the success, as has been mentioned here, of our tourism model by just the number of tourists that visit us, which we can only hope will be as high as possible and rise each year. We have a highly competitive fabric and a tremendously privileged environment. Now is the time, consequently, to take the maximum return from our already high quality sector; in other words, it is time to perfect what we offer and how we offer it.

Something that at the start of this term of office, which began in mid-January, as a government priority, is now a necessity for everyone: the Spain 2030 Sustainable Tourism Strategy is our next challenge. Hence, we will lay the foundations for our future tourism model, which will be backed by an improvement in the competitive capacity and profitability of the tourism industry, in the natural values we possess, also the cultural values, which clearly differentiate us from other destinations, and in the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of tourism. It seems to me that fairness should also be one of the responses to come out of this crisis.

Spain is opening up to tourism again, as we have seen in this exciting video. Today we present the Plan to Boost and re-launch the industry. We are global leaders. That is why each step we take must be a safe one. We will always take them with the responsibility and prudence to show that our country is a safe and healthy destination, both for visitors, as the mayor rightly said, and for residents.

And I want you all to know that for me and for the whole government it is a source of great pride that we have a competitive and powerful tourism sector. The tourist sector is a source of pride to us. It was before the pandemic, during the pandemic, because you have found how to lock down and not give up, and have no doubts that you will be able to rely on the active support of the Government of Spain to achieve this competitiveness, this sustainability and this job creation and productive fabric that our country needs to continue guaranteeing something that the mayor mentioned and that I share, which is social cohesion, something fundamental if we want to enjoy sustained and sustainable development in due course.

I am truly grateful.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation