Ximo Puig, president of the Valencia region where Benidorm and Alicante are located, issued the call after a huge drop-off in tourist numbers after Brexit. He said the new rules, which limit Brits to a 90-day stay every 180 days, are putting people off buying holiday homes, visiting their families and damaging the region’s economy.
Mr Puig stated he wanted Brexit to be: “As Brexit-less as possible”.
Reyes Maroto, Spain’s tourism Minister, assured Mr Puig that a task force including diplomats from both the UK and Spain has already been set up.
The embassy teams have been told to work towards “joint solutions” on “mobility” issues, she said – without elaborating further.
Mr Puig issued his demand after the number of Britons visiting his region plunged post-Brexit, from 3 million in 2019 to just 600,000 in 2020.
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While the pandemic will be behind most of the decrease, Puig warned that it is unlikely figures will return to pre-pandemic levels due to Brexit travel restrictions.
Puig said he is particularly concerned about the effect of the new rules on retirees who own or were planning to buy holiday homes in the region.
Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration reported that as of June 30th 2020, there were 366,498 UK citizens with a “certificado de registro” or “tarjeta de residencia” in Spain, the third biggest foreign population group in the country after Romanians and Moroccans.
However, Brexit rules and the impact of Covid-19 have taken their toll on this.
Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, British expats wishing to stay in Spain were required to apply for a residency card.
The UK embassy in Madrid has released data on the number of Brits who have applied for the non-EU residency card or exchanged their green certificates for the Withdrawal Agreement document, all while strongly encouraging that all UK nationals in Spain get one.
“At the beginning of June 2021 more than 150,000 UK Nationals had applied for their Withdrawal Agreement TIE – that’s both those swapping from the green certificate, as well as brand new applicants,” The British embassy wrote in a Facebook post.
Short-term British visitors were also a major source of income to Spain’s much-dwindled tourist industry.
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The travel and tourism sector of Spain has experienced a 40.3 percent drop in tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom during this summer compared to the pre-pandemic levels due to the travel restrictions that the UK kept in place throughout almost the whole summer season.
Multiple incentives have been introduced by Spain in order to lure British tourists back to the country.
Thanks to Brexit, UK nationals can now claim a value-added tax (VAT) refund on purchases made during trips to the EU – in other words, they have a permanent discount at any store they go to.
This is already having an impact on sales in Spain.
According to preliminary data from Global Blue, a company specializing in tax refunds, between January and the end of September, the average expenditure per British tourist in Spain was €1,337, much higher than the average for all nationalities in 2019 (€357).
This figure is also higher than the average expenditure of €837 by Chinese visitors to Spain, whose annual average spend is greater than other nationalities.
Speaking of the initiative, the managing director of Global Blue Spain, Luis Llora said: “We have to promote it, raise awareness and make it stronger.”
“If it’s done well, UK nationals will be the nationality that makes the most tax-free purchases in Spain,” he concluded.
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