express– Before Covid hit, Benidorm welcomed a whopping average of five million UK tourists to its sun-kissed shores. However, these figures plummeted amid travel restrictions put in place both by the UK and Spanish Governments.
Yet while UK tourists may not have been able to visit with as much ease as before, many expats remained in Spain during the pandemic’s peak.
One of these expats is Lauren Bates, who moved from Leicestershire to the popular holiday hotspot with her partner in 2017.
Much like the majority of the world’s population, Lauren says life in Benidorm during the pandemic came with “challenges”.
One, in particular, has been the language barrier, especially when it came to relaying important information about the virus and lockdown from the Spanish government.
She told Express.co.uk: “I have been regularly translating the government information about the facts and figures for the pandemic to try and help as I know a difficulty for many expats, of all nationalities, was being unable to understand the data which was only published in Valencian and Spanish.”
Spain endured one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe, which Lauren points out was challenging for the majority of those in the country.
However, amid the strict rules, there were some little things that, once they were allowed, made the lockdown “bearable”.
“The initial lockdown was very tough here,” she admitted.
“We weren’t even permitted to go out for a walk, but it made it much more bearable to be able to see the sun, the beach and the blue skies.”
As for most people, being apart from family was difficult, but it was technology that helped Lauren to stay connected with friends and family back home.
“I think our difficulties through the pandemic have been the being so far apart from family and friends,” she said.
“With the ease of regular low-cost flights, I would be back home in Leicester every few weeks for a weekend and my family would come and visit during every school holiday.
“This has been the longest we’ve been apart from family and friends, which has been the most challenging part for us.
“We’re very heavily reliant on the power of technology and FaceTime at the moment.
With both friends and family, we tend to FaceTime rather than call as it’s nice to see their faces.
“Sometimes, I’ll FaceTime my mum even whilst she’s getting on with the household chores just to chat and be involved.”
However, it wasn’t just loved ones back in England who Lauren was able to connect with virtually.
One of Benidorm’s greatest draws for the expat is its “sense of community” and this was something that was maintained, even despite the stay at home order.
“We also ‘see my family’ at Asa Elliott’s and Pablo Bloom’s, who are two known Benidorm singers, weekly online concerts.”
Though Spain is not out of its lockdown just yet, with many regulations still in place to try and curb a new surge in cases of the virus, the nation is preparing to reopen to visitors.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, has said she thinks Spain will be able to open up to tourists again in May.
She estimates that 40 percent of the population will have received the vaccine by then.
According to Lauren, many businesses are already keen for things to reopen, despite some “caution”.
She explained: “Although there are a few people steering on the edge of caution, the majority of business owners are desperate for tourism and the good times to return.
“When Benidorm is normal, it’s a goldmine for businesses.”
The good news is, the tide is beginning to turn thanks to the hope provided by the nation’s vaccination programme.
“The vaccination programme is on schedule and although Spain is currently looking at encouraging national tourism just after Easter, they and many of us, are remaining hopeful that international tourism will be able to resume in summer,” Lauren said.
“The hospitality has reopened in Benidorm, for the terraces only, at 75 percent with a maximum of four people and a forced closure of 6pm.
“The non-essential shops have been able to extend their opening hours now until 8pm.”
However, she admits some of the ongoing precautions might be a cause of concern for visitors hoping to jet off to the resort.
“There’s lots of people cautious about returning to Spain, due to masks being compulsory at all times in public spaces, including outdoors,” she said.
“Many of us are hoping that it won’t be much longer that we’re required to wear masks outdoors.”
Lauren has her own blog where she offers up-to-date information on life in Benidorm.