Friday, September 19, 2014

The Vita Delta Fiasco

Through the period of economic crisis, some hotel chains ran into financial problems. Mostly, these were solved by selling off specific hotels or giving up leasing arrangements through which chains managed establishments. Some hotels closed earlier in the season than had previously been the case in order to save costs, but hotels actually closing during the season while they still had guests in them, well that didn't happen. Crisis supposedly over, it now has happened, and it has happened at the Vita Delta Resort in Puig de Ros, just down the coast from Arenal. On Monday, the hotel closed with some 200 guests staying there. Their reaction was, as you might expect, not very positive. Turfed out of the hotel, they were finding it difficult to get alternative accommodation; tour operators and Vita were not, so guests complained, being very helpful.

It might be said that these guests should have known. But then they were guests not employees. Vita had announced to staff that the hotel would close on Monday. Despite this, the hotel was still taking bookings at the weekend. Its website now says that the hotel is closed for the season and will not re-open until 4 April.

So, what is all this about? A hotel chain that has got into financial difficulty? Or just one hotel that has had specific problems? There is a bit of both of these, but then there is also the fact that Vita's president, Josep Maria Morros, was sent to prison in July faced with charges that included unpaid tax, unpaid social security, falsification of documents and fraud.

The alarm bells were going off earlier in the summer, and they weren't all to do with fraud allegations. Earlier this summer, the town hall in Santa Pola in Alicante ordered the closure of Stella Maris hotel in the resort. It was on administrative grounds. Vita, the town hall said, did not have the necessary documentation to indicate that it should be running the hotel. Other Vita hotels in Spain have had issues, and the staff at the Delta have been operating for the past few weeks in the knowledge that things were far from ok. They have not been paid properly and the hotel itself is in significant debt to social security. It is being said that there will be an announcement on Monday. It could be that Vita will go under.

Whatever the background, the Delta's closure is a potentially damaging event. A four-star hotel with a seemingly good repeat customer base has had to throw those customers out. It may only be one hotel, but one hotel (not through any fault of the staff who have been just as badly treated) which creates such negative publicity is one hotel too many. The regional tourism ministry has been all but silent on the affair. It needs to get involved and seek to limit the damage.

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