Apr 21 - With public debt at 95% of GDP, Spain is inviting investors to bid for its lighthouses to convert them into boutique hotels. Amy Gardner visits the Finisterre lighthouse in Galicia
Forget the beaches of Southern Spain. If you really want to get away from it all, how about a lighthouse. PTC Spain has 187 lighthouses but the majority of them are currently empty. This one though in Galicia, Northern Spain has had its annex converted. It's now a hotel and a restaurant - the kind of thing the Spanish Government wants to see more of. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish): DESIDERIO NEMIÑA, O SEMAFORO HOTELIER, SAYING: "It has the charm of being a landmark. It's in the name, the Finisterre lighthouse. You're at the limit between Europe and America. From the sea views to the horizon, it's a a special place for people interested in maritime history. Living at the end of the world. Desiderio Nemina rents the annex from the government. It's hoping to create a chain of coastal boutique hotels and raise vital cash at the same time. With Spain's public debt at 95% of its GDP, it needs all the funds it can get. Carlos Ferras is Professor of rural development at Santiago de Compostela University: (SOUNDBITE) (English): CARLOS FERRAS, PROFESSOR OF HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Spain's already a world leader in tourism. Spain's lighthouses could well be a new way to develop it, and develop a new product that is capable of bringing new tourists and new forms of tourism to Spain. Converting, repairing and maintaining the lighthouses is expensive and the Government wants investors to shoulder the cost. But Desiderio thinks its only viable if the state carries out the rennovations: (SOUNDBITE) (English): DESIDERIO NEMIÑA, O SEMAFORO HOTELIER> SAYING: "Whether it's wholly or through grants or credit, they'll have to do it because if not, for a company, be it large or small, turning a lighthouse into a hotel, given the amount of bedrooms it could sustain, you could never make it profitable. 30 proposals have been submitted so far. And it's thought they include foreign businesses running similar ventures elsewhere in Europe. (SOUNDBITE) (English): CARLOS FERRAS, PROFESSOR OF HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We must acknowledge that this could result in the economic and social development of the surrounding area. We have to take people into account and value what would be a 'bottom up' planning procedure." Spain's already converted monasteries, castles and palaces into Paradores, a successful hotel chain. With the first of the lighthouse deals likely before the year's out, there's now a new glimmer of hope on the horizon for Spain's economy.