Government proposes longer opening hours in major tourist areas

Many Spaniards still enjoy an afternoon nap
Many Spaniards still enjoy an afternoon nap

The Spanish Government is to propose amending the law on opening hours (1/2004) in order to oblige tourist cities to fully liberalise opening times in the areas with greatest numbers of visitors, and is also to propose to the regions that, from 2013, the minimum number of Sundays and holidays where businesses can open to trade, be raised from eight to 10.

Secretary of State for Trade, Jaime García-Legaz, explained that to define which cities these changes shall apply to, they have established objective criteria, such as that in the last year they have registered over one million overnight stays in their city, or they have received 400,000 visitors who arrived via cruise ships.

Currently meeting these criteria are Barcelona, Alicante, Valencia, Zaragoza, Malaga, Seville, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Bilbao, Cordoba, Granada and Cartagena (Murcia), as well as Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, although the latter three are already permitted to open freely to trade in certain tourist areas.

The Government’s proposal includes unifying criteria to establish a timetable of opening hours in all the communities. In addition, they propose increasing the number of hours per week a shop can open (weekdays) from 72 to 90, and to relax the timetables of all establishments with less than 300 square metres, compared to the 150 metres limit set in some regions.

El Mundo reported that within six months from the entry into force of the new regulations, the municipalities of the 11 remaining cities will have to define what they consider to be their areas with the greatest tourist inflows, and the proposal must then be approved by the corresponding regional authority.

“Spain is one of the most restrictive countries when it comes to open hours on holidays, which puts us at a disadvantage,” insisted Garcia-Legaz, who then said that these measures are intended to prevent the millions of visitors who come to Spain, from leaving the country without being able to buy anything because they find the shops are closed.

The Government also showed the regions an example of the declaration statement, prepared together with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, which will allow certain stores to open without a municipal license. This will enable the “Auto-Licence Express” to be launched with immediate effect.

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