Budget airline Ryanair is set to slash 7 out of its 9 flights currently servicing San Javier Airport (Murcia). The controversial airline boss is furious at the region’s business inflexibility and its handing €3 million to the small regional airline Air Nostrum, which mainly operates domestic flights from Madrid. Ryanair sees the grant as throwing good money after bad. Air Nostrum’s traffic, despite the massive cash injection, has seen its traffic decline by 23% during the last year.
Ryanair points out that their airline carries 49% of all UK traffic to Murcia. It operates 76 San Javier flights bringing 120,000 tourists each week during the winter months when local businesses are desperately trying to stay afloat.
A MURCIAN BRICK WALL
Ryanair believes the €3 million would be better spent promoting tourism to the Murcia region: Presumably by selling the region’s attractions and encouraging northern Europeans to visit Murcia rather than the more high profile destinations such as Malaga,Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona.
After several months of meetings the Murcia authorities have been unresponsive. Ryanair say the Murcia tourist authorities have failed to address their concerns; reply to discussions or agree on a compromise. The airline feels its only option is to switch its carriers to more responsive regions such as rival Alicante with which it has reached amicable agreement for more slots.
Their press release says: We are surprised that both the Concejal and Director General for Tourism are allowing the collapse of tourism in the Region of Murcia. Seemingly both have priorities, which in our opinion are much less important than the continuation of seven international airport routes.”
Local hoteliers were tight-lipped but downcast issuing a terse statement to the effect that they ‘lament the lack of sense being shown by the consejeria for tourism.’ The response from Spanish commentators has been typically Spanish flavoured.
Many thought the money would be better spent if channelled directly to struggling businesses and not to foreign concerns ‘who don’t need it and grow fat off our backs.’ A common theme was that ‘we should protect Spanish jobs and Murcian businesses: We don’t want English tourists who don’t spend money but stay with friends. We want Spanish tourists; they spend more money than do the English.’
This mindset would appear to define the difference between northern European and Spanish business ethos. The former believe business survival should be based on pragmatism and not ring fenced by government sponsorship. This they feel serves only to turn businesses into council run outposts guaranteed an income regardless of market realities or business acumen.
Unless there is a change in Spanish attitudes hard-headed investors will be attracted to Spain’s down-to-earth business-wise rivals and will take their business elsewhere. Ryanair has already done so. Others in related businesses will be drawing lessons from the Murcian tourist authority’s mulishness and abysmal lack of marketing nous. Ryanair might set yet another trend.
Photo credits: bjarnekosmeijer.