Researchers reflect on the Impact of the Global Recession on Lifestyle Migration and Residential Tourism Development Michaela Benson – Lifestyle Migration and Property Development in Panama Over the summer I carried out fieldwork in three lifestyle migration destinations in Panama – Boquete, Bocas del Toro, and Panama City. * In Boquete, the most evident outcome of the economic crisis was the slowing down of residential development projects. There were various building sites where the work had just stopped. I also heard that the number of planning proposals received by the municipality was down 80% on the previous year. Nevertheless, since my visit in 2008 there had been new incomers, and while some could still afford to buy property, there were others who had opted to rent. These were mostly retirees. In Bocas del Toro, the rate of development was remarkable. Many buildings are going up, although it is difficult to assess the extent to which this promoted by lifestyle migration. Apparently there have been plans to develop Carrenero and Bastimentos (islands in the Archipelago), but these have not gone ahead at the speed with which they were initially planned. What were evident in this town were the increased number of backpackers, and the diversity of the places that they had come from. The hotels, now suffering from a lack of more affluent tourists, have turned towards this new tourism market, and even while I was visiting two or three hotels became hostels. Panama was interesting in terms of what it revealed about the impact of the global recession on lifestyle migration motivations. I met several North Americans who had chosen to leave the US precisely because of the recession. They expressed a sense of disillusionment with the existing government (Obama), but also, as many of them had been self-employed, argued that the policies in the US had been highly restrictive to the extent of almost penalizing them for choosing to be self-employed. They had hopes that they would be able to set up businesses in Panama City, and had often chosen to rent property. In this respect, I felt that these individuals had used the recession as an excuse to escape the system. Boquete and the financial crisis http://www.laestrella.com.pa/mensual/2009/07/28/contenido/127444.asp *I am very grateful to the British Academy who funded this research in Panama (SG-53957). Iranzu Gárriz Fernández – Impacts on Mexico I am doing my fieldwork in San Miguel de Allende, México. On the issue of ways that the financial crisis has impacted on lifestyle migration populations, I would like to tell you that since July I’ve been interviewing all restaurants located in downtown San Miguel, and the vast majority of restaurant owners interviewed told me they didn’t feel the effects of world economic crisis, instead they’ve felt a large negative impact of swine flu (H1N1) since May. However, as July is high season for tourism, they were already recovering from the sales slowdown. Casablanca’s owner said: “La crisis económica mundial no se ha notado en San Miguel de Allende, no sé si la disfrazaron" (translation: The financial crisis has not been felt in San Miguel de Allende, I don’t know if it is disguised). John Koch-Schulte – Lifestyle Migration to Thailand It is inconclusive right now but I believe the overall numbers in Thailand may be down quite a bit for retirees and people moving for many months at a time. I suspect this is due to the fact that the beach resort areas are very tourist based and are impacted disproportionately to other areas due to recent growth in second homes, investment and vacation properties in these areas. There has also been incredible political strife in Thailand the past two years or so which has further made the tourist areas less attractive. My case study was in a non-tourist location and early numbers appear to have far more foreigners retiring/moving here in the past year. Which is quite remarkable considering the political problems. It is also an incredibly cheap area and home province to many of the foreigners' wives. I suspect many people that have found themselves out of work in the past year are settling here until things improve back home. Raluca Nagy – Lifestyle Migration to Romania The crisis has definitely influenced both tourism to and migration from the area I used to research (Maramures, Northern Romania). When the real estate market crashed, some of the first to be sent home were Romanian illegal workers in construction, from Spain and Italy. Many of them are now back in their villages, unemployed and rather proud to admit the situation, pretending they came back as a result of their own decision. As for tourism, it has dramatically diminished, not only in the studied area but also in the neighbouring Bucovina. Remy Tremblay – Quebecoise Seasonal Migration I look at seasonal migration or French-Canadian (Quebec snowbirds) in Florida. Although Canada has not been hit too hard by the recession, I did notice some changes in their plans: shorter trips, hunt for better deals from those who rent motel rooms or condos in Florida, more aggressive publicity from renters, airlines etc. This is another story but Mexico is going through such a tough time that it makes the tight-budget snowbirds look like complainers. Here in Quebec, for example, Mexico is going in all the tourism trade shows (huge booths!), have full-page publicity in newspapers and magazines etc. in order to bring their faithful tourists back. Right now, it is actually cheaper to go to the Caribbean side of Mexico than Florida, the Dominican Republic or Cuba (where Canadians comprise the largest percentage or all tourists). Karen O’Reilly – Lifestyle Migration and residential tourism in Spain I have not managed to update my research recently but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Spain’s property market is one of the worst hit in the global recession and it is quite clear that this is having an impact on those who relocated there in the past decades. There are many people with negative equity and who are struggling to pay back mortgages on over-valued properties. Those who hoped to supplement their income with rental from second homes in Spain are finding that the weak pound is deterring tourists. Meanwhile, many planned residential tourism developments have been halted mid way, while perhaps more astonishingly some are going ahead with fingers crossed. Here are some interesting news reports to follow up if interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/24/spain-expats http://www.spanishnews.es/20090917-more-help-on-the-way-for-british- pensioners-in-spain/id=1003/ http://britishexpats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=638732 I am sure our Spanish colleagues have much more to add….
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