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Published on Friday, December 18, 2020

Tenerife hotelier describes 'nightmare' year amid border closure chaos






A Tenerife hotelier has told of the Covid 'rollercoaster ride' of 2020 and revealed how fresh reports of border closures led to another wave of cancellations.


Roberto Barreiro, general manager of the 11-property Coral Hotels, blamed poor communication from authorities for reports that Tenerife was set to ban international visitors for two weeks over Christmas.


The speculation late on Wednesday, and repeated by news outlets yesterday morning, was wholly unfounded and triggered at least 70 cancellations, he said.


Jet2 quickly clarified the issue on Thursday, hours ahead of formal confirmation by authorities in Tenerife.


Barreiro told TravelMole the media reports sparked a 'row' between AShotels, the association of hoteliers on Tenerife, and government officials, who had earlier held a press briefing about tightening borders without clarifying that international travellers were exempt.


Barreiro said: "It caused a serious problem. The President of AShotels had to call the Tenerife President to ask what was going on and was told the new rules were only for Tenerife citizens, not for international tourists.





"We had loads of calls and emails from people asking if they can travel and had around 70 cancellations."


The confusion was in keeping with a year described by Barreiro as a 'rollercoaster', with moments of optimism scattered among long periods of hardship.


He said seven of Coral's hotels have been closed since March, leaving only four open to tourists.


"We are now in high season and usually we'd have all 11 hotels open with over 85% occupancy," he said. "Right now one of our hotels has occupancy of 78% and the lowest is 48%.


"The adult hotels have been better but the family market has been more of a struggle. But we've been coping enough to cover our costs which, given the situation, is something."


In a normal Christmas, all 11 Coral hotels would be 100% full, he said. This year, its four properties will have occupancies ranging from the high 80s to 65%.


Barreiro revealed the group, much like other hoteliers, has been forced to drastically cut rates and said it has drawn up flexible contracts with UK tour operators as everyone in the supply chain grapples with the crisis.


"We've had to drop our rates by about 40% in high season, so that's almost half price," he said. "In this situation everyone has had to be flexible.


"We need tour operators and the tour operators need us, so all the contracts that were in place were postponed for one year. We are working this year with flexible rates because they are changing so constantly.


"Tour operators are still important and in times like these people are booking more through them because they feel safer.


"We need to help them a little, and they need to help us so we can all stay alive."


Among the frustrations for hoteliers has been how relatively Covid-free tourist areas have faced the same restrictions as residential areas where cases have spiked.


On Tenerife, while the residential north has seen cases rise, infection rates in the tourist south have remained low, Barreiro said.


Asked about his frustrations, Barreiro said: "You have no idea. It's been a nightmare. You see these reports and measures that are being taken in the islands as a whole and it's absolute nonsense.


"Politicians have taken easy decisions which has been very disappointing.


"In the tourist areas in the south there has been no problem. It's like two different islands."


More positively, Barreiro said the vaccine has given forward bookings a boost with an 'immediate bump in reservations' when it began to roll out in the UK.


"There is still a desire to travel so we are optimistic that the situation will improve in the months leading up to summer," he said.


"But we are not too optimistic. We are not going to be back to where we were last year or the year before - that will take several years.


"But at least going into the summer we can think about opening our hotels."  

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