Tourists Usually In Spain Stay Mainly Off The Planes

The recession is prompting many people to stay home this summer, and not only in America. The "stay-cation" phenomenon is also affecting Europe, and that's been catastrophic for one of the world's most popular tourist destinations: Spain.

The Spanish city of Benidorm and other resort towns on the Mediterranean Sea have witnessed a 22 percent drop in foreign tourist arrivals during the first part of this year – the worst of any region in Spain.

In the center of town, the slump is evident at the state unemployment office. The line spills out onto the street, where it is 90 degrees in the shade.

Mothers with babies have been waiting for hours. Paqui Sanchez is a grandmother who worked for 45 years as a hotel receptionist.

"It's incredible," she says. "I've never seen anything like this."

Tourism is one of Spain's biggest industries. In some coastal areas, virtually the entire economy depends on it. On the Canary Islands, the chamber of commerce predicts the unemployment rate will reach 30 percent by the end of this year.

The importance of tourism for Spain is underscored by the fact that the U.N.'s World Tourism Organization is based in Madrid. The agency's secretary general, Taleb Rifai, says Spain's tourism industry is dependant on northern European economies that are in crisis.

"So it's natural that Spain would be most affected with the drop in demand, especially from the European markets. Europe still is the major generating market of the world, more than 55 percent of the tourists of the world come out of Europe," he says.

He says the global economic downturn is affecting the tourist industry in many countries, and he has called on governments to provide stimulus packages to tourism as they have to other troubled industries.

Meanwhile, in Benidorm, people continue to wait in the unemployment line.

A young mother, Yolanda Savedro, says she is out of work and has run out of her welfare entitlement. Savedro says kids are starting to steal from supermarkets because their families cannot feed them.

"What am I supposed to live off of?" she asks. "You tell me."



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