Alvaro Díaz Munío reviews the situation of hotels in Bilbao-Bizkaia
The coordinator of hotels in Bilbao and Bizkaia, Alvaro Díaz Munío, analyses for BasqueMagazine the complex situation the sector is going through and advocates a balance in the relationship between locals and visitors.
In such changing times, what is your assessment of the situation of the sector in Bizkaia? The beginning of the year does not allow us to be particularly optimistic, but we think that things may change a little in the run-up to Easter, spring and summer. Last summer was a good one, as national tourists moved around a lot and we hope that this one will do the same. As for international tourists, due to the current circumstances, it is more difficult to predict. For May and June there are already some important events confirmed in Bilbao and that encourages us.
And how have the hotel managers experienced it? There has been a bit of everything, from fellow hotel managers on ERTE until recently to others, like me, who have been at the foot of the cannon, standing guard and almost watching over the security of the building. And managing the damn ERTEs.
In the future, what conclusions do the hotels in Bilbao draw from what has happened over the last two years? I don't think we have to believe that the sector is always going to get better. When the pandemic started, we thought that this year was going to be even better than the previous one, because we have had several very good years, such as 2019. We were thinking that Bilbao is fashionable, we have huge events, mega-concerts... but until everything is cracking, like in the rest of the cities.
What are the main future risks in Bilbao/Bizkaia? We have to be careful not to die of success. It worries us. We know other cities that have been totally successful, such as Barcelona, and now, not only because of the COVID, they are having a really bad time, with hotels still closed, tourism-phobia, overcrowding and imbalance between neighbours.
Tourism must also be sustainable. Not only ecology, but the balance that everything has to have. We have to go further but not think that we will always be growing. The neighbour has to coexist reasonably with the tourist. We are afraid of saturating the locals and that they will reject the tourist.
How do you assess the proliferation of illegal accommodation? There has to be a control of illegal accommodation, a real control. If not, sustainability breaks down and we can end up seeing neighbourhoods taken over where the locals can't live. An example: from a first floor upwards, there can be no business of that kind, but 90% of illegal flats are above first floors. Now the management of these illegal flats is no longer in the hands of the owner, but in the hands of big owners who transform a city.
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