Mobility restrictions and the search for less crowded spaces are favoring that visits to small towns in the interior on weekends are increasing notably, in a context in which there are fewer and fewer trips. This is demonstrated by the study being carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) to observe the daily mobility of the population and that which is recorded at specific moments. The analysis is based on the positioning of mobile phones, like the one being carried out by the Ministry of Transport, but it goes further by offering specific data on people who travel, and in areas lower than the provincial one.
The study was released last week, but it offers data for every Thursday and Sunday since last June. Thanks to this, we can know that on November 15, 4,006 people came to the area that the INE identifies as “Benilloba and other municipalities.” It includes, in addition to that town, all those around the Sierra de Aitana, the Guadalest valley and a good part of the Vall de Seta and La Serrella. All these populations add up to only 5,050 inhabitants, but at the beginning of that Sunday the 15th there were 4,273 people, of which only 839 left it throughout the day. That is, 7,440 individuals were concentrated in the area, 62.71% more than the registered population.
This area is the one that every Sunday registers a greater volume of visitors in relation to its population, something that largely explains the demographic characteristics of the environment and the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. It is an area with few inhabitants and little overcrowded, with relevant natural landscapes, little affected to date by the covid-19 and to which it is possible to access without restrictions. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is the only space in the province where the number of Sunday visitors is constantly increasing, when mobility in general is increasingly reduced.
A month ago, on Sunday, October 18, the surroundings of Aitana, the Vall de Seta and the Vall de Guadalest received 3,707 visitors, and a year ago, on November 24, 2019, 3,083 people traveled to these municipalities. In other words, the current Sunday influx is 8% higher than a month ago, and 30% more than a year ago. Not even in other rural areas of the province has there been such an increase. However, the phenomenon is also taking place in the Camp d’Elx, although with less intensity.
On November 15, the rural parties from Elche received no less than 23,169 visitors, mainly from the city of Elche itself and from other parts of the southern regions of the province. This meant that there were almost 41% more people in the area than there are inhabitants. The influx, moreover, remains stable compared to a month ago: on October 18, 23,138 people attended the Camp d’Elx, also mostly from the urban area of Elche. In Alicante, on the other hand, rural games are a place for excursions or Sunday getaways for 3,600 people, especially from the city itself and from San Vicente del Raspeig.
The difficult balance between welcome and suspicion
The greatest influx of visitors to small towns is being noticed from the moment the confinement was lifted, and produces mixed feelings on the part of the residents of these towns, as this newspaper has published on several occasions throughout this months. On the one hand, it is generally understood that there are many more people who attend, looking for open and uncrowded spaces, and the positive impact this can have on local hospitality businesses is also appreciated. Even the possible arrival of new settlers, thanks to teleworking, is seen as an opportunity to stop the depopulation process. However, at the same time there is quite a fear of the risk of coronavirus infections occurring, and of the possible havoc that this could cause in a very aging population such as that of these municipalities. For this reason, in recent months mayors and residents of these towns have constantly emphasized the need to be responsible and to appeal to those who go to small towns to follow the sanitary standards established as strictly as they would in an urban environment. . Most of the small municipalities in the interior remain without any case of coronavirus, such as Millena, Gorga, Quatretondeta, Benasau, Fageca, Famorca, Confrides, Beniardà, Benifato and El Castell de Guadalest, among others.
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