The Chaos of the Controllers Dynamites Spain’s Image

Source: El País: El caos de los controladores dinamita la imagen de España

The Chaos of the Controllers Dynamites Spain’s Image
The government’s countermeasures echo across all the major world media
El País Staff Editorial, December 4, 2010

To get an idea of the damage the air traffic controllers’ strike on the eve of Constitution Day has done to Spain’s image, just take a look at Google News: there are articles in the New York Times, Al Jazeera, CNN International, the Guardian…all told, over a thousand stories in world media about the mess at the airports and the government’s countermeasures, especially the declaration of a state of emergency.

“There are very important economic consequences to this, and someone will have to pay them,” Secretary General of Tourism and Domestic Commerce Joan Mesquida has explained on [radio station] Cadena SER. “This situation has ruined the holiday,” he added.

With what marketing experts call “The Spanish Brand” already affected by the economic crisis and particularly doubts about the country’s solvency, the financial consequences of Monday’s protest and its enormous echo in international media are unpredictable.

The Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organizations and the Spanish Confederation of Hotels have qualified the actions of the controllers as irresponsible and intolerable. In a joint statement made today and broadcast by EFE, the organizations contended, “The air traffic controllers’ strike has seriously affected Spain’s image and economy and has immobilized thousands of passengers, depriving them of their right to travel and causing them incalculable harm.”

The organizations stressed the global extent of the damage: “That is to say, not only to employers but also to the employees who provide services in hotels, catering, travel agencies, airlines, and several other activities, without forgetting the most important damage, which we already mentioned, to the international reputation of our country.” Along the same lines, the Tourism Round Table, which represents thirty businesses in the sector, has warned that for tourism companies who have already suffered “gravely” under the strike, what follows could ultimately bring about their “collapse, ruin, and closure.”

Raphael Minder, in the pages of the New York Times, recalls that the Zapatero Administration has just imposed billions of euros of cuts in public spending to convince investors it is possible to reduce the deficit from 11.1% to 6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “This wildcat strike, without a doubt, will generate enormous losses in the tourism sector, which represents 11% of GDP,” he says.

On the front page of the digital edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the news on the airports is accompanied by stories from the last few days about the economic situation in Spain, with titles like “Spain blames Merkel for its turmoil” and “Spain wants to convert its airports into money.”

The Wall Street Journal underlines the relationship between the protests of the controllers and the measures adopted by the Cabinet on Friday, including the partial privatization of Aena [the state-owned company that owns and manages most airports], the change to private administration of the Barajas and El Prat airports, and the new regulations on counting work hours for the controllers.

In an extended report which El País published in mid-November called “The Burden of the Spanish Brand,” David Fernández wrote that “for businesses incorporated in Spain, dependence on foreign perception is ever greater.” According to data collected by the Service for Studies of Spanish Stock Exchanges and Financial Markets in 2009, foreign investors already possess 40% of Spanish stocks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Politics, Spain, Translations

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