Fuerteventura, the island that is transformed to survive the pandemic

Sun all year round, temperatures that do not go below 20 ° C, possibility to practice all water sports for about 365 days a year. Fuerteventura is one of the Canary Islands which, like the others, lived mainly on tourism, attracting millions of people. In 2019, according to statistics from the statesman, it had received 1.89 million visitors. In 2020, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns around the world, the drastic decline resulting in the closure of numerous businesses. The survivors are those who have been able to transform themselves to welcome a new type of travelers, who have revived the territory and allowed the economy to run: remote workers. In the city of Corralejo alone, the most touristic place on the island which has about 27,000 inhabitants, 3 co-working establishments have been opened in the last six months. In the last year, bars and apartments have equipped themselves with wifi with fiber optics and have been renovated with workstations for those who had to work. “Even before the pandemic there were smart workers, but from September / October 2020 there was a boom”, said Bojan, owner of a bar that has been open for exactly one year, November 2020, with an ocean view, free ultra-fast wifi and electrical outlets at almost all tables.

When the smart workers arrived and how the city has changed

If from March to June 2020, Fuerteventura was empty of visitors, already during the summer of last year, with the easing of restrictions in various countries, especially in Europe, tourists began to return. With subsequent lockdowns and the closure of offices across the EU, many of those who found themselves working from home have decided to move to live in Fuerteventura with a first wave of arrivals as early as September October 2020. “They are arrived in Corralejo in October, my company had put me in remote working and I thought it would be much better to do it from a hot island where I can go surfing in the moments of rest, rather than from my apartment in London “, he told Alex, one of the collaborators of the remote work community, a group that organizes events and connects smart workers who are in the same city. The peak, according to various owners of co-working spaces, occurred between February and March 2021, when the city had already equipped itself to welcome them. In this period and in the following months, spaces were opened in which to work with fast internet and where people could get to know other workers in their same situation. “When I arrived in Fuerteventura for the first time in mid-December I immediately found myself at home, I was with a nice group of friends who came here to work remotely, avoiding the loneliness of the lockdown in the rest of Europe – explained Alessandro, intelligence consultant. artificial – a beautiful community was created which remained until spring. While I was on the island I saw spaces for workers and many villas were equipped with the best performing internet connections to meet the demand of newcomers “. The co-working rooms offer private rooms for those in need of privacy, perhaps for a meeting or an important call, collective workstations and the possibility of drinking a coffee in a quiet and comfortable environment. “We understood that this type of travelers, who came alone, needed spaces in which to meet other people with their own needs and to be put in contact with each other,” explained Aida, a girl who runs a co- working and works in a real estate agency.

Events for the remote worker community

Currently, a channel has been created on Slack, a messaging app for companies that connects people to what they need, where all smart workers can receive or ask for information on restaurants, surf lessons and a variety of topics. Here collaborations are created, perhaps if someone is looking for a graphic designer, a programmer or any other professional, for the realization of a specific project. And all the events organized on the platform are also advertised in order to make known and put in contact the lonely people who arrive on the island. These are aperitifs or barbecues on the weekend and in the evening after work, which allow newcomers to get to know each other and make friends. Alex and Fabi opened the channel on Slack, both collaborating for the remote work community. Alex is an English project manager who started creating events because “I was looking for them myself”. Arriving alone in Fuerteventura, he needed to meet other people on the spot, perhaps with the same needs as himself. “Fabi set up the community in February, when the island was full of remote workers – explained Alex – initially everything was organized on Whatsapp, but soon we exceeded the number of 256 people allowed for a group on the app. This is why we moved to Slack and now we have more than 1,500 members in Corralejo ”. Viktoria manages Valentina and Matteo’s co-working space, she arrived in Fuerteventura just before the start of the pandemic and she is also part of the remote work community collaborators. “I’ve always been a bit of a glue in my group of friends and when these people started to arrive, I met them and started organizing parties in my house,” he said. Victoria’s parties are liked and the requests have increased and so we started to think about collaborations with local clubs to create events open to all. “When people arrive here they basically have no idea where they are, how it works, the fact that maybe there is no gas station on the highway and they run out of petrol – explained Viktoria – I give advice and I have become a bit a point of reference for them “.

Rising house prices, cars not found

The counterpart to this mass arrival of travelers who stay for a few months has been that the houses or rooms for rent have become full, the demand has steadily increased and so have the prices of a house. “In the months I was here until May the costs were much lower. Remote workers were almost the only type of tourism. It was much easier to rent cars at affordable prices and the same for rents, up to 50% -60% less. Now that I’m back, the costs are skyrocketing and it is almost impossible to find a house or a car ”, said the artificial intelligence consultant Alessandro. Many citizens of Corralejo have started renting rooms in their homes for an entrance since their business was stopped. Like Tommy, a former surf instructor and tourist broker who had his own agency offering surf courses, kitesurfing and excursions of various kinds. With the lockdown of March 2020 and the consequent lack of demand for his services, he had to close his business. “I placed the first ad on Airbnb one night in November 2020, the next morning I had requests already,” he said, adding that since then the demand has been quite constant and growing in the last period. Currently for an apartment in the center of 40 or 50 square meters you spend around 800 euros or even more, if you don’t stay at least a year, the cost remains the same as for holiday homes. The situation is different in the less popular cities, although there was also a slight increase in Costa Calma, Morro Jable, El Cotillo and Puerto del Rosario. Those looking for a quieter place move towards the center and south of Fuerteventura with the whole territory that is gearing up to welcome workers remotely. The price of the cars to rent is also growing, highly sought after to be able to move comfortably to the various surfing or kitesurfing spots or to visit the island, since the bus connections do not cover the whole territory and various places of interest. they are still reachable only via dirt roads. “The problem with the car is that, with the pandemic, the companies have sold many vehicles because they could not rent them, now that the demand has increased they find themselves with 20% less fleet,” said Matteo, owner of the co -working managed by Victoria, of a restaurant and other business in the city center. If two years ago it was possible to rent a car even for 300 euros for a month, now this is more or less the cost of a single week.

Why do you choose Fuerteventura to work and how smart workers spend

Most of the remote workers who arrived on the island between 2020 and 2021 come from European countries. “Many told me that with the pandemic factor they didn’t want to go that far from home,” said Viktoria. At the same time you choose Fuerteventura to be able to stay in a warm place and spend your free time in numerous activities all close at hand. Many teens who have come to the island to work remotely claim that they are more productive here than when they were in the office, despite the fact that they often go out in the evening and come home late and then start the working day early. Alex himself, from the remote work community, admitted that he has been working better since he was in Corralejo, a concept also replicated by Viktoria: “Many have told me that, despite the small hours and sometimes they have to face the day not in full shape , from here they produce much more ”. But how have these people changed the economy of a tourist island? “Smart workers are a different category of travelers from tourists – highlighted Aida – they don’t want to stay in a resort, go to the beach and relax, but they are looking for an experience. Furthermore, staying for a long time, they shop, go to restaurants, clubs ”. Although probably fewer than the approximately 2 million tourists who visited Fuerteventura a year before the pandemic, the people who come here to work remotely spend on the territory for an extended period and favoring all sectors a little: from shops, sports centers and water sports schools, as well as restaurants, bars and pubs, as well as the aforementioned real estate and car rental agencies. “With the smart workers I earned triple compared to the same period in the years before the pandemic”, is what Daniele, owner of a restaurant in Corralejo said, who claims to have always had the place full and with people who often came back to eat from which remained for several months. Halfway between the tourist and the resident, remote workers have moved the economy of the tourist island and increased the income of those who have organized themselves to offer specific services for this type of traveler, transforming the negative effects into a positive one. of the pandemic.

The Covid situation in Fuerteventura

Currently, according to data from the Spanish Ministry of Health, 77.5% of the population in the Canary Islands have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 75.7% have completed the vaccination cycle. Fuerteventura is currently at risk level 2, which it passed on November 15th. The situation will remain so at least until the 25th of the month due to an increase in the number of new cases. 260 new cases were registered on 17 November. The measures in this risk area foresee that in closed or open spaces the groups are reduced to a maximum of 8 people. In the restaurants it is not possible to exceed 75% of the capacity outside and 50% in the internal area, the premises must close at 2.00 am. Employment in the medical area is 3.62% and 4.55% in intensive care. In the city of Corralejo, however, you live quite normally, the mask is mandatory only inside the premises. There is no obligation to have a green pass for this reason, various people arriving from abroad who are not vaccinated against Covid choose to stay on the island.