The tug of war is repeated practically year after year. The competition to operate trips for seniors, called by the Institute for Seniors and Social Services (Imserso), usually results in an administrative fight undertaken by companies that are not awarded. The clash in the offices leaves in the air the dates on which these trips can be booked and, with it, the vacations of the elderly can begin. About 900,000 people are pending on the calendar. This year also coincides with a rethinking of the programs to achieve, among other objectives, that they be a mechanism to combat the problem of unwanted loneliness.
The Imserso confirms the award of the trips in 2022 to Mundiplan and Ávoris
As of today, knowing when these subsidized packages will go on sale is unknown. This year, the three lots that make up the Imserso trips have been won by a single winner: Avoris, which is part of the Barceló group. The decision became final on August 1. During this month, the companies that did not win any of the contracts have filed an appeal: Soltour and two Temporary Business Unions (UTE). One, Mundiplan, made up of Iberia, Alsa and the IAG7 travel agency. Another, Seniorplan, where Nautalia and Autocares Vera are located.
Now, the decision to accept the appeals is in the hands of the Central Administrative Court of Contractual Appeals. This body, which reports to the Ministry of Finance, has less than two weeks to decide, which can delay all processes, contracts and trips, predictably, three months. In fact, there will already be a delay, because the hiring of the Imserso trips should have started on September 1.
It’s not something new. Something similar happened, without going any further, in 2019 and in 2021. A legal battle that, according to sources in the tourism sector who prefer to be anonymous, occurs because the “contract is very important in volume and because it allows having clients at certain times of the year. where there are not so many tourists.” At the same time, “no one wants to lose these contracts, although the margins, the prices per room of these programs, are very tight, they are looked at to the millimeter. Almost always, the offers are based on price,” they add. This is a contract that, between the three lots, reaches 843 million euros.
The failures in these tourist programs have already been pointed out by the Court of Accounts. At the beginning of the year, the plenary session of this State audit body approved a report in which it pointed out that they had become “an annual financing mechanism for certain entities” and did not fulfill the role for which they were created: to promote associations and the activity of old.
Change in the bases
Looking ahead to this year, although the times and dates of the contest have been similar, a change of approach was sought. “The idea was to prioritize quality,” they indicate from the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, on which Imserso depends. They point out as a starting point the customer evaluation, which 85% rated the vacation programs satisfactorily, but they also criticized that, in some destinations, there was a certain overcrowding.
In addition, the approach for the 2023-2024 season is based on the impact of the pandemic and the effect it had on seniors. It also recognizes the economic blow, because stopping Imserso trips led to a negative bill of more than 380 million between 2020 and 2021. In addition, for the following two years, the contract and trip figures were adjusted, based on health recommendations. . In this way, this fall-winter will be, when it is launched, the first Imserso travel program to recover pre-pandemic normality.
This year has also sought to combat loneliness. “In addition to fulfilling an important role in terms of active and healthy ageing, the program [de viajes] “has a decisive impact on another phenomenon on which this Institute works, because it is within the scope of state social services plans: unwanted loneliness,” the bases of the contracts affect.
The report delves into the fact that the need has been “identified” to adapt the program to new demands of older people, with the participation “of different agents linked to the sector” and “the direct beneficiaries of the program” to “address the quality challenges, guarantee the relevance, relevance, effectiveness and sustainability of the program and its results.” The weight of the quality proposal of the hotel offer and means of transport, according to the aforementioned report, is 62%, the same percentage as in previous years.
A concession process in the middle of summer
As in other seasons, the process began last spring, when the three vacation lots were put out to tender, which include both lodging and transportation. The first, that of the peninsular coasts, represents almost half of the contract, around 444,000 places. It is valued at more than 382 million euros. The second, tourism in the island tourism areas, 230,000 places, valued at 268 million. And the third, the indoor one, has just over 212,000 seats and 192 million.
The companies presented their offers in May and, two months later, the Imserso published the incidents it observed in the different proposals, which had to do with aspects such as the number of beds offered or that the contracts with some of the hotels were not sealed by in writing, as stated in the documents that appear in the Public Sector Contracting Platform.
Already during the process there were resources. In July, Soltour presented allegations that he believed his rights were violated in aspects such as the valuation of the train seats he offered and the accessibility of the hotels he proposed in his offer. Allegations that were not accepted, so the company was excluded from the process. Finally, the three lots were awarded to Avoris.
Companies resort and hotels worry
After adjudication, appeals and delays. They have not only been presented by Soltour, who considers the elimination of his candidacy from the fight for Lot 1 – the one on the peninsular coasts – “unfair”. Mundiplan and Seniorplan have also filed an appeal for Lot 2 and 3, respectively. Now the Central Administrative Court of Contractual Appeals has to decide whether to accept the allegations. If so, the entire process will be reviewed, which can delay Imserso’s trips by three months. It would not be the first time. In the fall of 2021, the resources postponed the start of the trips to January 2022.
And there the hotel companies, which are the ones that contribute their hotels to the different operators that present themselves to the bid, have already requested that the deadlines be accelerated, because they see that they can run out of older travelers with whom to fill their hotels in low season. .
The hotel employers’ association of the Valencian Community (Hosbec) assures that if the hotels are not operational for Imserso in October there may be 13,000 layoffs. Of them, 3,000 would be people employed in their establishments. The rest, indirect, among others, from the hospitality sector.
A message similar to that launched by the hotel associations of the Balearic Islands or the Costa del Sol. “We are faced with the uncertainty of the deadlines in which the resources may be admitted for processing, the award or cessation of the program, in short, before the impossibility of planning business activity in the coming months,” says the Valencian employers’ association. “In addition, we cannot forget the end users, who once again find themselves faced with the question of being able to enjoy their right to a well-deserved vacation.”