Associations appeal for immediate support
Businesses on the Azorean island of São Jorge are in danger of closing down unless “urgent measures” are taken to mitigate the impacts of the current seismic crisis.
Who says this is business leader on the island, Mário Veiros.
He told Lusa: “When it comes to tourism, there are a number of services (on the island) that are very small businesses. They may employ only two people who provide adventure tourism services, for example. These could all be lost! These businesses have been without clients basically since October…”
Tourism is, at the moment, the “worst affected sector”.
With the horrors of La Palma’s long-running eruption still fresh in people’s minds, cancellations have been pouring in, affecting bookings right through the summer.
The island has been in ‘seismic crisis mode’ since March 19.
There have so far been more than 26,600 quakes, over 200 of which have been felt by the population.
The largest was 3.8 on the Richter Scale (which is still ‘light’ in terms of effects). It is simply that no-one knows when these quakes will stop; whether they will get any worse – or whether the deep subterranean volcano below the island will blow (see here for updates).
As a result, roughly 1,500 people have left the island for other islands in the archipelago – and 2,500 people have been evacuated from the area most affected (the municipality of Velas).
The island remains at ‘volcanic alert stage 4’ (in a series that can only go two stages higher: 6 being ‘eruption underway’).
And this is what has had a “contagious effect on all areas connected with tourism”, says Mário Veiros: hotels, restaurants and commerce.
He is thus calling for “immediate measures to safeguard existing businesses” which, in addition to the seismic crisis, are being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the situation resulting from military intervention in Ukraine, says Lusa.
Veiros hopes for what he calls “the capitalisation of businesses” that “has to be totally or partially non-refundable, to guarantee cash flow,” along with measures similar to those adopted during lockdown, in order to maintain employment.
Lusa explains that São Jorge isn’t ‘dependent’ on tourism. It has a strong dairy industry that produces the award winning ‘Queijo São Jorge’ (a kind of Azorean equivalent to English cheddar), as well as a canned tuna processing plant, which exports its produce.
All these businesses are being affected by the ‘perfect storm’ of problems.
While Mário Veiros is seeking an urgent audience with regional president José Manuel Bolieiro, the Angra do Heroísmo Chamber of Commerce (CCAH) is also calling for support to help local entrepreneurs and families.
“It is essential to start thinking about measures to support and encourage people to return to their island and their homes, based on a very assertive communication that transmits confidence to those who have left,” said Rita Madruga, president of the São Jorge branch of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The bottom line is that support has to be “immediate”, and backdated to March 19…