Quest Means Business   « Back to Blog Main
May 3, 2009
Posted: 2137 GMT

The pain is everywhere.

This report is being written from the cafeteria at Malaga Airport on Sunday night. I have spent the past few days on the Costa Del Sol having a bit of R&R. It has also given me a chance to see how the tourist parts of southern Spain are weathering the storm. The results are not good.

Admittedly the season is not in full swing, but already I can see where the recession has taken its toll. Many restaurants shut their doors last season and from what I can tell, won’t be opening them again this year. The apartment buildings along the coastline are festooned with “To Rent” signs from balconies.

British tourists are a mainstay of this part of Spain -– but this year, even with the offers and bargains, the Brits will find it expensive down here because of devaluation of the pound. Sterling has dropped more than 15 per cent against the Euro since last summer. Suddenly cheapo-Spain doesn’t look so cheap. (The pound/euro rate was even worse, around parity, but that was in January, in the depths of winter, and not too many Brits were heading to the Med then!) The effect of this is a simple meal out for two is expensive (Mum and I had one course each, soft drinks, no wine and the bill came to €30.)

So along the sea front the cafes are offering bargain breakfasts to British tourists who make up the single largest number of inbound visitors. Around €5 will buy you a full English Breakfast. “Toasties” (toasted sandwiches) can be had for around €3.

The problem resorts like Fuengirola, Mijas, Benalmadena and even Torremolinos face (and indeed for all the major resorts where the Euro is the currency ) is that they are being hit by this double whammy: Their customers are suffering from recession and their finding the money isn’t going as far.

There is a bit of hope -– all surveys show that people are very reluctant to give up their annual holiday no matter how bad the economy. Brits, Germans, Scandinavians will still travel to the European hot spots. The difference this time is they may book all-inclusive package holiday deals, to keep control of their costs, and they will cut corners wherever they can.

For Spain, and the other southern resorts , the economic clouds are still very firmly in the sky, whatever the temperature or season.

Now - tell me - Where are YOU going on vacation this year and have you changed your plans because of recession or economic woes ?

Filed under: Business •Quest Means Business

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spiritbutterflygirl   May 3rd, 2009 9:40 pm ET

Good article Richard

Alyzabeth   May 3rd, 2009 9:42 pm ET

The recession stories are really getting depressing. Hopefully things will take a turn for the better soon.

Kristien, Antwerp   May 3rd, 2009 9:44 pm ET

Hi Richard,

Welcome back, glad you enjoyed your short break!

I just got back from New York and I'm planning a trip to London.
This is actually the first year that I'm travelling this much, so I guess the recession is having the opposite effect on me.
I think most people would rather cut back on other things and still go on at least one real holiday, it's the perfect way to get away from everything!

Maren in Oregon   May 3rd, 2009 9:46 pm ET

Interesting take on how to take a vacation – always on the lookout for an economic story. Good for you Q.

Vacation is not a word in my vocabulary – we Yanks don't go on vacation nearly as often as people in Europe or you Brits. We need to go, we jsut don't.

This year, however, I am going ot travel from Oregon to NYC to see the Big Apple for the first time and hope to see some dear friends and even dearer people who have yet to become friends.

That's going to cost me, realistically $4K US, just for a week. I've decided that all those years I didn't travel and didn't spend money on vacations can be spent now. I hear NYC in the Fall is spectacular.

Matt Hudson   May 3rd, 2009 10:17 pm ET

We are opting for cheaper family camping holidays and experiencing our own country. Then again, I think that we are luckier than most and have a beautiful country in New Zealand. Not to mention that we're heading into our winter now so are unlikely to go anywhere until October/November.

Ronald Watson   May 4th, 2009 12:25 am ET

Brits should not have to worry about prices in Spain: we are experiencing constant deflation, having begun in March, which was at first denied and later begrudged by the Zapatero government. This deflation is even guaranteed by the country's economists and means that Brits as well as others will find almost everything cheaper, from rents to cars to dinners out. Only the natives will be restless, since a depression is just around the corner, and foreigners will be able to take advantage of the situation, regardless of the weak pound. After all, we here are in desperate need of tourism, and the poorest tourists will discover the very cheap Spain that it used to be.
Moreover, the Sick Man of Europe will only be able to become healthy again if tourists flock here once more, which is what we´re praying for!
Ronald G. Watson
Madrid, Spain

Rikki, Fargo, ND   May 4th, 2009 1:54 am ET

I do have a couple different journeys planned this summer to see family and friends mostly around my state of ND and into Minnesota...and I plan to spend a lot of weekends at the lake this summer but other than that I fear I will be spending the remainder of the year at home...not necessarily because of economic woes...I am moving this summer so that will be a pretty big expense...

Terry Washington State   May 4th, 2009 5:42 am ET

RIchard, expat brit here... we just don't "holiday" like the europeans. Sadly, it looks like I have to put the UK on the back burner again for another year. For me it's not the sight seeing, etc (which I enjoy) it's getting home to see what family is left. Glad you and mum enjoyed a few days. Safe travels and see you on air on CNNI today?

Carol Galiano   May 4th, 2009 5:45 am ET

If I could be guaranteed LESS mass tourism in European vacation spots, that would be a pull for me, and I would be willing to pay the premium for the less crowded beaches, hotels and restaurants.

Leo   May 4th, 2009 7:49 am ET

That is the problem Richard, people think twice about holidays (and everything else) and end up spending less even if their incomes are the same as the previous years because of the Recession Cloud...

As for myself, these holidays i will spend @home because we have a new bab@ coming the first week of july!


Emilio   May 4th, 2009 10:21 am ET

The comments of Ronad Watson, from Madrid, show very well that it is possible to live in a city, in a country and not understand the things are happening in. Of course, in Spain there is no deflation, at least if we understand well this economic word. The prices have fallen 0.1 during two months, but a student of economics knows that deflation is the continous fall of prices. On the other hand, this fall of prices, as is obvious, has been caused by the fall of commodities.
I don´t know whether the spaniards are "in desperate need of tourism". I realize that we need tourism, of course, but I can say I have bought my holidays in UK at -20% in the relationship to last year (the fall of pound gives another 20%!!). The crisis have took all the countries and comments like this one over Spain is, simplely, wrong.

Peter Vaz   May 4th, 2009 10:34 am ET

Pain of S-pain is nowhere Prof. Quest but in my brain and dreams are getting drained.....needs pliers, wrenches and screwdrivers to fix the nuts and bolts of economy. Let Obama fix the banks and we will fix the gutters and drains.....but some finds gold dust in those leaking pipes. This is a great time to BARGAIN or use BARTER system...don't you think Prof. Quest? Do Americans and the Europeans feels shy to bargains.....Asia is the best. Talk something about BOOZE parties....

Christine   May 4th, 2009 2:35 pm ET

Hi Richard

My partner and I are still going on holidays this year despite the recession – we have however cut down on our holiday budget and are going to the Isle of Wight, France and Milan instead of taking more exotic holidays such as safari in south africa, mauritius and las vegas where we went last year. Although we still have our jobs and are currently benefitting from the lower interest rates on our mortgage (we are on a tracker), we still feel the need to cut down on spending in order to boost our savings in case things gets worse.

requiredreading   May 4th, 2009 2:52 pm ET

How about Medina Gounass in Guediawaye, Senegal, to ask the people there where they will go for a vacation in recession times? (see International Herald Tribune, Monday May 4, p.2)

michele   May 4th, 2009 9:27 pm ET

Hi richard,
Glad your back hope you had a great time.It was a great article. For the most part people will be staying close to home. No very far getaways this year. Alot of side trips to take a break. Things are starting to get a tiny bit better.Much more time.

Radnor   May 4th, 2009 9:49 pm ET

Spain of course !!

I'm Portuguese living and working in Spain. POrtugal is fairly small and i have visited almost all of it !!

Now it is time for Spain. Not heading to Cataluña tough, still not sure were.

Lauro Silva - Brazil   May 5th, 2009 4:06 am ET

The current crisis is a too complex entanglement not only due to its causes but also to its consequences. As to Spain,even including Greece, Italy and Portugal, the question gets worse because the euro has been becoming more and more a heavier burden to be carried.The intense competitiveness among the euro-currency countries going along with the tourism and export shortage take their toll more deeply on the poor nations. It won´t be surprising that some euro-countries,for lack of bailout resources, may be forced to abandon the currency.

Lisa in Stuttgart   May 5th, 2009 5:49 am ET

Hello Mr. Quest,
We have hit a financial brick wall after my extended unemployment. We have cancelled all non-essentials. We stopped going out to eat last fall. We have no plans for 'vacation travel' as we have no budget for expenses besides survival funds. Husband's project ends in December and he's starting to panic. He may lose his job and then what? Homelessness? He has an MBA and we're technical professionals. We never ever imagined this state of stress to escalate to this level. It's tougher than we ever imagined, but we cannot and will not give up hope.

Prasenjit Medhi   May 5th, 2009 6:18 am ET

Wish I had the chance to go on a vacation Richard sir. I am a big fan of your show, and really appreciate the effort, broad depth of knowledge, and especially the humor you put into your shows, even from your days on BBC World.

Wish I could go somewhere in India, any where. But I find home, work and the chuch is the best for me. For some reason, I find that I'm welcomed everywhere I go with people dragging their shirts out of their trousers, stamping their feet, knocking on utensils, tables, and the like, preferably behind me. One would think its the Spanish inquisition, except its the 21st century.

Strange, Im just a writer who has written and spoken out against religious extremism and in favor of logic and reason. Perhaps that has something to do with it. On the other, since I get a free show of intolerance everywhere I go, its like a vation 24×7! God bless them, and you 🙂


Jean   May 5th, 2009 7:08 am ET

Hey Richard,
I liked ur report and i appreciate ur effort:)
But, whatever is the case of spain, it will not affect my decision to have a good holiday there.
Further more, im going the next year to continue my MBA in essade university which is in Spain:)

Enzo   May 5th, 2009 8:34 am ET

Ha ha ha ha, cutting down on budget and only going to Milan and France??

ooohh, poor you!

People in developed countries are so spoiled...

delaney t   May 5th, 2009 1:29 pm ET

I will definetely still travel this year. I am a local expat so I must travel at least to see my family back in the country of my birth and that of my partner's as well. There are also a number of close friends marrying abroad for which we must travel. The freedom to travel and explore when I have the mobility and ability to do so also means I will travel this year even if I need to cut back in other areas – time is not something we can get back or find again. This year we will go to the US and France for family, European destinations for weddings and Japan and Namibia for leisure (but on a reduced budget staying with friends and choosing budget options).

Emil   May 5th, 2009 6:06 pm ET

I will go to Hungary. The local currency is way down from 175/$ to 230/$
so it's a bargain. A lot to see the food is very good. Lake Balaton (the largest in Europe) is a very nice sweet water lake the children love it
because it salt-less.


Elisabeth S. Stage   May 5th, 2009 6:12 pm ET

Hello Richard,

We live at the outskirts of Copenhagen and we are just hoping for a wonderful and warm summer 2009, where we can stay here and enjoy Denmark at its best.
If some extra tax money comes in, which I suppose and hope it will, we might stay with friends in Paris for some weeks.
No one goes anywhere, when summer is good, and even if not, everyone go to stay with friends.
Wishing you all the best. Enjoy your program mes very much. Keep up the good work.
Elisabeth S. Stage
M.Sc., B.Sc.

Peter   May 5th, 2009 7:32 pm ET

I am going to the quiet beautiful island of Nevis in the caribbean

Pablo, Basque (Spain)   May 6th, 2009 6:57 am ET

Tourism in Spain is suffering, but there are other activities suffering much more, specially construction. I live in an area where tourism is not important. The Basque live mainly on industry.

What I can see is that in recent year Sapin has increased it´s population in more than 5 million people, but not equally. Most of them have gone to the Mediterranean or Madrid. Now unemploiment rate is heading to 20% in those areas. They where working in construction and tourism services and now there is nothing to do.

Spain needs a change. Population can not keep growing right now and new industries are neded to replace other activities. Not much is being done. It´ll be long untill we go out of this one.

Mallorca Investor   May 6th, 2009 9:53 pm ET

In Mallorca the Spainish have robbed land owners their land.

There is a 30 year old law that says that after a owner dies the land goes back to the government and cannot be inherited.

BUT: The owners of all coastal property of Mallorca did not know that when they bought the properties!!!!

2) Hotel owners and all sorts of business owners invest MILLIONS of US$ in businesses and then they are shut by the Mallorca Mafia = Major for no reason.......

We have 3 friends were the Mallorca government has disowned them and driven them out of their business!!!!!!!

maria   May 7th, 2009 11:52 am ET

Hello from always sunny Gran Canaria!

Over here few Northern Europeans would give up a dip in the Atlantic and a fashionable bronzage!

And you should folllow : get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

You don´t want merely to survive the crisis, you want to LIVE through it!

Funda Tolan   May 7th, 2009 7:51 pm ET

Well, my answer is quit simple. I'm not going anywhere this year on summer holiday.....I might go to friend of mine in London for a few days but my story ends pretty much right there. I haven't got a well filled bank account and I must find a new job as my contract will not be extend....Great timing isn't it?

Kornat Croatia   May 8th, 2009 12:57 pm ET

Hello Mr Quest,

Because of the global reccesion, I will not cancel my summer holidays, ( people need a litlle rest now and then especialy if they work in media) But this year I will choose my own country ( Croatia).
That way I support my economy an It s cheaper then anywhere in Europe ( beer 1,50 eur, coffe 0,80 eur, nice fish meal 30 eur)
And yes, people in Croatia worry a lot more is it going to be a nice sunny day rather then global economic downturn. And thats what I want from my vacation this year.

T.DOT BLONDIE   May 9th, 2009 6:12 pm ET







Stephen C   May 14th, 2009 3:53 am ET

At the end of last year I had decided I was spending too much on vacation each year and would plan only one short week in summer for 2009. Enter my 17 yr old son who lives with mum and her husband in Norway. He had his heart set on an unchaperoned class trip to Cyprus, his parents and I agreed he could go but they wouldn't pay half the costs and as it became complicated, P. decided he'd like to visit his grand parents in the Northern US instead asking if I would accompany him. How could I say no. We bought him a €400 ticket from Oslo to Mpls and I myself an €800 ticket from Amsterdam to Mpls. Great! But then the trouble started, being that my summer holiday had turned into a bit of a family obligation I found my self booking three short holidays in the first half of the year for myself. 2 budget trips to a yoga center in France where one shares accomidation and helps prepare the food and clean up, and a long weekend which has turned into a week at a freind's in Barcelona. It all sounds pretty affordable but I am actually forcing myself to keep the commitments to family and friend. I booked the flights in
January but haven't been able to budget spending money so we'll be eating in a lot.

Vicente   May 23rd, 2009 1:26 pm ET

Spain made a big error many years ago basing external trade on tourism.
It could be corrected in the 40 years passed after the tourism boom but most spaniards are too lazy to abandon the easy life serving meals to foreing people. Russians were smarter: ¿do you want to come? Pay expensive hotels (and wait for visa).
Spain must abandon gradually the idea of cheap tourism. Do you want fiesta,? Go to Mexico.

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