Europe’s south offers a warm welcome to energy migrants | Popgen Tech
- Cheaper rent, cheaper bills
- Some people move permanently
- Greek tourism minister toured northern Europe to seek visitors
- Other countries also campaigned
MADRID/LISBON, Nov 28 (Reuters) – Software developer Victor Varlamov reports to work every morning on a sunny Spanish island off the coast of Africa after the prospect of steep heating bills and a winter made tougher by Ukraine -war forced him to leave his adopted home in Poland.
He is not alone in the pursuit of a warmer, cheaper way of life, as tourist boards across southern Europe have seized on the cost of living crisis to advertise the benefits of wintering abroad to those living in more northern countries.
Varmalov, 50, moved with his wife and teenage daughter from Poland’s Baltic coast to Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands two months ago and plans to stay for the coming months.
“The economic crisis and mostly the war situation pushed me here,” said Varmalov, who is Russian by birth.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February pushed some energy prices to record levels in August. They have eased but are likely to remain high and have led to painful levels of inflation.
Before leaving Gdansk, where he has lived since 2016, Varmalov calculated that he could save 250 euros ($259) in rent each month and pay 140 euros for all his utilities and internet, instead of the 200 euros he alone paid for electricity in Poland.
What he saves now, he spends on eating out, he said, and also enjoys beach walks in his lunch hour.
“The reality is better than my expectations,” he said.
The regional government of the Canary Islands, where the average winter temperature is 20 degrees Celsius (68°F), launched a social media campaign in September to encourage remote workers, like Varmalov, and retirees from countries including Britain, Germany and to attract Sweden. .
“It is no secret that this will be a winter of great economic uncertainty in Europe, but in the Canary Islands we want to turn the situation around,” said Yaiza Castilla, the regional tourism chief, describing the islands as an “economic haven”. describe.
Other Southern European countries also see the potential.
In September, the Greek tourism minister visited Austria and northern European countries, such as Sweden, to “turn this great energy crisis that is plaguing Europe into an opportunity”.
Portugal’s tourism board has also campaigned and its head, Luis Araujo, said the expectations for winter tourists from northern Europe were “very positive”.
Tourism data supports his optimism.
Data collected by HomeToGo search engine for Reuters showed that searches from countries such as Britain, Germany and the Netherlands were up 36%, 13% and 3% compared to last year for winter accommodation in Spain, Greece and Portugal respectively.
Gabriel Escarrer, chief executive of the Spanish hotel chain Melia, said people were booking apartments and suites for two or three months in the Canary Islands this winter, with a notable presence of Scandinavian visitors.
‘ROPES FOR THE WINTER’ AND BEYOND
Visitors and more permanent residents also come from Germany, which before the Ukraine war was highly dependent on Russian gas and is anxious about possible winter energy shortages.
Among schools that enroll more students from abroad, the German school in Gran Canaria received 40 applications from foreign students this year, which he said was higher than in previous years without providing exact figures.
Repeople, a co-working association in the Canary Islands, said it was fully booked for November and 80% full for the rest of the winter.
Among those taking up a place at Repeople is 31-year-old German freelancer Heiko Schaefer, who plans to stay until Christmas.
“The current rising prices are a reason for many people to move further south,” he said. “This island is a refuge for the winter.”
Airlines will increase the number of seats available to the Canary Islands by 31%, the local tourism office said.
TUI fly, the leading airline operating between Germany and the Canary Islands, said it would increase flights by around 10%, adding in a statement that energy costs were “a psychological element” in pushing more people south.
Airbnb, the short-term rental firm, said searches for winter accommodation in southern Europe tripled between April and June.
STUCK AT HOME OR A PERMANENT MOVE
However, for the majority of Northern Europeans, heading south is only a dream when the rising cost of living means they cannot afford the luxury of travel.
Instead, they stock up on goods to keep themselves warm, such as duvets, slow cookers and electric blankets, retail sales figures in Britain show.
However, others have decided to move permanently.
Natasha Caldeiras, from Kent, southern England, and her family are moving to her husband’s native Portugal just before Christmas. They said energy prices were the incentive.
Caldeiras believes the warmer weather will allow them to turn on the heaters for a shorter period than in Britain, where their monthly bills are around 200 pounds ($242) a month and rising.
“Even before the energy crisis, we would have liked to be in Portugal because of the weather,” said the 28-year-old. “But with the energy crisis, (being in Portugal) gives us more security because of the climate.”
Murat Coskun, chief executive of property consultancy Get Properties, said the cost of living crisis was “fuelling the trend” of Britons deciding it was time to leave.
“I don’t think we’re at the peak yet,” he said. “The winter is going to be tough.”
($1 = 0.8270 pounds)
Reporting by Corina Pons in Madrid and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; additional reporting by Karolina Tagaris in Athens; editing by Barbara Lewis
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