A recent article from Rafael Yus Ramos in El Observador talks about that Mecca for tourism – the Costa del Sol. But, he says, it's not a tourist destination so much as a place where foreign people live. What the Spanish authorities, lost for a better description of the vast numbers of us extranjeros, and both unwilling and incapable to treasure our input and value to the community, describe weakly as 'residential tourism' before quickly turning to other topics and ignoring us.
We should almost feel flattered that they have decided to tax our properties elsewhere in the dreadful Asset Tax (for which they have no reason). Here's Rafael:
'...When you drive down the N-340 road which runs along the entire coastline of the Costa del Sol, what catches the eye are not hotels, but the huge number of homes built, many of them forming large residential communities on the outskirts of the original towns, with slightly odd workmanship on the homes. But, who lives there? They are just people who reside on the Costa del Sol: not native people that work there, but rather elderly Europeans, people who were seeking this place for its quietness, the gentle climate and the good health services available...'
Rafael prefers to describe his foreigners, not as residential tourists, but rather as immigrants.
So, he asks, 'are these residents 'tourists' in the genuine sense of the word? The product under offer, a house, is it a 'tourist product'? Finally, is this the best solution for the local economy?'
But there are few observers like Rafael, and the foreign residents (and the comparatively massive amount of money they brought with them) are mixed in and forgotten as a small and unimportant part of Spain's love affair with tourism.
My question – how much does Spain spend on promoting tourism? And how much does it spend on looking for foreigners to become residents by buying into the country? Has it ever dawned on anyone that a resident, here for 365 days, who has bought a house, a car, a washing machine and is keeping the local businesses open during the winter months - is worth rather more than a visitor who is here for five days and may as well choose Portugal next year.
Another article out last week on the subject of the foreign residents, comes from Valencia's Levante. This one is titled 'The Foreign Residents don't want to integrate' and deals with the Marina Alta, where foreign residents apparently practice 'auto-segregation'. - 'The difference lies in making a living. "Labour migrants" reach the Marina Alta impelled by necessity, while the "residential immigrants" arrive with their life already arranged. The first strive to integrate. But the second stay as tourists and "barely seek any relationship or services from the host society"'... 66% of the citizens of the municipality of Teulada-Moraira are foreigners, says the article sententiously.
There is a point which is being lost: when you sell a car, a tee-shirt, a souvenir or a plate of food, the buyer leaves with it and takes it somewhere else (if only in his stomach). But sell someone a house next door, and, hey presto, you have a new neighbour. Sell five hundred nearby houses to five hundred British families, then you can not be unduly surprised when the neighbourhood suddenly starts to change from a quiet Spanish area smelling gently of anchoas to a ghetto of sunburned Britons marching around wearing shorts, sandals and socks. And lastly, my friend from the Levante newspaper, remember this: We are all Europeans now.