Will the new virus variant infect Catalonia’s winter season expectations?

by Deborah Cater
winter season in Pyrenees

Demand for accommodation from domestic tourists has increased due to a number of factors this bank holiday weekend. Catalonia won’t let the new virus variant get it down, but there is a sense of caution for this winter season.

Early snow, five days of relaxation and partying, and a disinclination to travel abroad has seen winter season accommodation figures increase in Catalonia.

However, there is concern over the increase in covid infections recently. Combine that with the emergence of new variants, and the tourism sector is both hopeful and wary.

Positive forecasts in jeopardy

The appearance of new variants of the virus raised fears and threaten to jeopardise the optimal winter season forecasts.

“We thought we could turn the page,” says Ramon Solsona, secretary general of the Lleida Hospitality Federation told El País. The fear of outbreaks has had no effect on the volume of reservations. In the Lleida regions, the hostelry federation represents 20,000 hotel beds and another 20,000 camping beds.

“We are in a fully technical situation”, admits Solsona himself, and certifies the virus has not affected the demand. “The reservations are even above 2019, because in the mountains it is very important to have snow, and this year there is a lot” .

Avalanche of tourists this winter season

The ski resorts of the Catalan Pyrenees rushed to unseal their facilities last weekend, to prepare for the avalanche of visitors. The latest news about the resurgence of the covid has not reached the slopes. “Despite the noise, it will still be a magnificent bridge,” says Quim Alsina, director of the Catalan Association of Ski Resorts and Mountain Activities (ACEM).

“All the stations are very lively, because there is snow and they can work, even Nordic skiing,” he says. The sector appreciates a powerful takeoff of the winter season campaign, after a 2020 that was “very bad”, according to Alsina.

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“The turnover had a fall of almost 70%, while the hiring of workers was 25% less than that of a normal season. The losses of the stations were important”.

Nearly half a million head to the slopes from Barcelona

More than 485,000 vehicles left Barcelona and the metropolitan area between Friday and Saturday, according to the Catalan Traffic Service. A full-fledged operation, with 5% more cars than the same bank holiday weekend during the pre-pandemic era.

“Everything that is an hour or an hour and a half from Barcelona, ​​is considered close, and is highly sought these days,” says Ferran Puig, president of Concatur, the Catalan Confederation of Agrotourism and Rural Tourism. He points out that rural accommodations “touch 100%” capacity.

Winter sports in Spain

The call of nature

Open spaces, open air and contact with nature are a traditionally powerful hook, even more so since the pandemic. Mireia Sans runs a campsite in Prades; she is also the spokesperson for the Association of Campsites of the Costa Daurada and Terres de l’Ebre. “We are at 80% occupancy, and fundamentally it is all local customers,” she points out.

“In the framework of the covid we are used to cancellations, however, it is not significant or worrying, they can be compensated with last minute reservations”. Meanwhile, Ramon Solsona insists it is not worth completely abandoning oneself to optimism for the winter season. “Some statements by the counsellor Argimon can ruin everything”.

He also claims to give more measured messages. “The alarms hurt us. We already come from a very complex time, and we just need that for them to finish crushing us ”.

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