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Tourists Usually In Spain Stay Mainly Off The Planes
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Tourists Usually In Spain Stay Mainly Off The Planes

World

Tourists Usually In Spain Stay Mainly Off The Planes
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Many people are staying home this summer, and not only in America. The stay- cation phenomenon is also hitting Europe, the world's biggest exporter of tourists. And that's been a disaster for one of the world's most popular tourist destinations: Spain. Jerome Socolovsky reports from the Spanish resort of Benidorm on the Mediterranean Sea.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAVES CRASHING)

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY: A few decades ago, Benidorm was a sleepy fishing village with golden beaches sheltered by jagged mountains. Now, in Europe, Benidorm is a by-word for cheap package holidays. Walk along Herona(ph) Street, and you may not hear a word in Spanish.

Unidentified Woman #1: Hello (unintelligible).

SOCOLOVSKY: But you may bump into one of the inebriated British holiday-makers carousing on the boardwalk. But this summer they're not as ubiquitous as they normally are. Benidorm and the surrounding regions have witnessed a 22 percent drop in foreign tourist arrivals during the first part of this year, the worst of any region in Spain.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE BLOWING)

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

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: Mothers with babies have been waiting for hours. Paki Sanchez(ph) is a grandmother who worked for 45 years as a hotel receptionist.

PAKI SANCHEZ: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: It's incredible, she says. I've never seen anything like this. Next to her is a family spanning three generations, two of which are of working age.

YOLANDA SAVEDRO: (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Man: (Spanish spoken)

SAVEDRO: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: Young mother, Yolanda Savedro, and her parents say they're all unemployed. Savedro says she's also run out of her welfare entitlement.

SAVEDRO: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: I've been out of work for two years, she says. I can't take it anymore. I have three children, and the youngest is six months old. Savedro says kids are starting to steal from supermarkets because their families can't feed them.

SAVEDRO: (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: What am I supposed to live off, she asks? You tell me.

Tourism is one of Spain's biggest industries. In some coastal areas, virtually the entire economy depends on it. On the Canary Islands, a chamber of commerce predicts that the unemployment rate will reach 30 percent by the end of this year. The importance of tourism for Spain is further underscored by the fact that the World Tourism Organization is the only United Nations agency based here.

At its headquarters in Madrid, its Jordanian secretary general, Taleb Rifai, says the industry is dependent on northern European economies that are in crisis.

TALEB RIFAI: So, it is natural that Spain would be most affected with a drop in demand, especially from the European markets. Europe still is the major generating market of the world. More than 55 percent of tourists of the world come out of Europe.

SOCOLOVSKY: He says the downturn is affecting the global tourist industry and calls on governments to provide stimulus packages like other industries are getting. Spain's minister of industry and tourism recently visited Benidorm and pledged $1.3 billion for the national industry.

For NPR News, I'm Jerome Socolovsky in Benidorm, Spain.

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