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Imserso’s low-cost model brings hotels to the brink of collapse



The incident at a hotel in Roquetas de Mar (Almeria) last week illustrates exactly how precarious it is for hoteliers who live during the low season for travelers from the Imserso social tourism programme. Dozens of retirees rioted at a local residence to protest the lack of variety and portions in the establishment’s menus, as well as the poor condition of the fruit basket. They claimed to have found nothing but pasta and meatballs in the dining room for several days. Classic kids menu. The complaint reached the Andalusian Junta, but the response from those in charge of the hotel didn’t take long: “The costs don’t stop going up, but we still charge the same every year.” Specifically, 22 euros per person and day. The low price for which they should offer board and full board, water and wine, Wi-Fi and all the services of a four-star hotel. Thus, the debate is inevitable. Can you demand a quality service for such a high price? It’s hard to think. The beneficiaries of the trips are not to blame for the fragility of the government programme, but they are hurt by the limited budget run by hotels that, after escalating prices, calculate the dead profitability point (the price at which they neither earn nor lose) around 40 euros, almost double what they receive. It is also true that this difference shows the futility of continuing with this low-cost model: if pensioners do not assume it, then it must be the state that increases the money. This is the debate that the People’s Party has tried to bring to Congress in the framework of the state budget for next year. The parliamentary group of the People’s Party in the Chamber of Deputies has modified the current travel program Imserso to ask the Ministry of Social Rights, in the hands of Unidas Podemos, a larger budget that improves prices for marketers and hotels, but without giving up prices now. paid by program beneficiaries. However, a motion has been put forward against the government, which has directly vetoed the initiative, despite the fact that this summer the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maruto, endorsed the redesign of the programme, and even the government partner, Ion Pilara, to abandon her. On the reason for this decision, sources from the Socialist Parliamentary Group confirmed that the matter is related to “budgetary expenditures and income”, but from the industry they insist that their position on reforming the travel program for the elderly has not changed. But the veto sounded like a jug of cold water among hoteliers, who hoped the government and opposition would henceforth improve the program’s investment, now that the social rights clause for Emserso’s trips had barely increased by five million. . The Imserso travel program is essential to maintaining employment on the Spanish coast, Balearic and Canary Islands during low season. Historically, it has been the main support for hotels staying open during the winter season, at which time tourist flow in coastal areas is severely limited due to the lack of other demand attractions. There are about 90,000 jobs at risk, as well as the main economic source for dozens of coastal towns during the winter months. Better, the hotel is closed the situation is limited. Although 235 hotels have registered for senior citizens’ trips this year, in regions such as Andalusia and the Balearic Islands, more than thirty establishments have decided to remove themselves from the program this season. But there is much more than that. In total, in coastal destinations, nearly 40% of the hotels that were operating before the pandemic have been lost (in 2019 there were 215 and now 132). Entrepreneurs would rather have a hotel closed or have the business at half throttle than lose money due to loads with the program, no matter how much it helps them stay open and keep going year-round. Some decide to reduce their exposure to the program. This is the case of the Hotel Golden in Benidorm (100 rooms, 26 staff) which this season has decided to dedicate between 60% and 65% of its capacity to Imserso travelers, when in previous years it reserved 90% for them. If they do not give up this source of income, it is because they have no alternative. “Competing against a monopoly like Imserso is impossible, our market is Spanish and in winter you have to go there, through Imserso, or dedicate yourself to other tourism, English or other nationalities,” says its director Daniel López, José Luis Fernández. For hoteliers, repair is nothing more than a matter of common sense. In Valencian society, there has been significant opposition from businessmen to take part this year, and even, a parallel travel program has been proposed, forcing Valencia Generalites to intervene directly, pumping the sector up to an additional €6.70 per night. Relief is also joined by the Region of Murcia, which will distribute 150,000 euros to affiliated hotels. But these are just corrections to delay the major renewal of the program that is now needed. The wicker work is the same as it was four decades ago, while the social and economic context has completely changed. The Secretary General of the Tourism Board, Carlos Abella, points out that the program is not only contextualized for the sector companies, but also for the customers themselves, “whose needs and preferences have changed in recent years”. He regrets the mistreatment of travelers and hotels “and even more so when we talk about something that does not cost the government money; for every euro invested in Imserso trips, €1.57 is charged,” he says. Now, everything indicates that the renewal of the program will not come in the next season, and like this year, the hotel trip can only be stopped by the communities. “If more money does not come in, the elderly will not get enough offers and services and there will be a huge loss of employment because hotels will close,” says Abela.

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