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Reopening the Road? When? Under what conditions?

By Basque Government | 20/04/2020

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There are many questions we ask about how COVID-19 affected the Camino de Santiago. Here you can read some of the answers of the experts;


Professor of Art History

Director of the Institutional University Chair "The Saint James Way and Pilgrimages"

University of Santiago de Compostela


I think it premature to assess whether the Camino is going to work this summer and whether with national or international pilgrims.


We have to wait a few more weeks to see to what extent a certain normality will recover.


In any case for risk groups there will be no Camino because there is no vaccine in sight or other solution, and therefore they will remain confined.


Historian and writer

-Do you think there will be a reopening of the Camino this summer? Should it have been? Under what conditions?

No one can, today, answer this first question, and if they do, wishes could be confused with harsh reality. So what we're seeing in China, where everything started two and a half months before here, the return to tourism or leisure activities is not going to be easy. As for the more conventional tourism sector, it is already losing summer and practically the rest of the year, with estimates of between 10% and 20% occupancy, which would make many businesses impossible. Demand will be very scarce, international demand will be zero, and supply is oversized in many sections of the road. As a result, already announced by several associations of entrepreneurs of the Camino: many will not even open this year, and those who do so will be afraid, and with the sword of Damocles of possible obligations to restructure their businesses, a work that not everyone will be able to carry out. A generally bleak picture, as well as imaginative initiatives, of whoever can for free, which are starting to be announced on the networks (most, a chimera fruit of despair).

Should there be reopening? In my thinking, I greatly value individual freedom and responsibility, as they are doing in some Asian countries like Korea, Japan or Singapore. If the pandemic is controlled, the individual must act responsibly and take all necessary hygiene measures, complying with the rules that are issued, to avoid risks. There are many heart pilgrims who are waiting for the starting pistol to return to the Camino, as the Vizconde de Valmont said in The Dangerous Friendships, "Sorry, but I cannot avoid it". It's something superior to our strength, we have to go to the Camino. I do not understand that going to the Camino, under certain conditions, may be more dangerous, or less advisable, than traveling by public transport in large agglomerations, or working in a janitor, and tourism is also as essential an industry as any other, I am happy with the strategic and productive sectors when 13% of the country’s GDP depends precisely on tourism and hospitality, to which add a lot of small trade. Punishing one and another not on whim? Or all or none.

What about conditions? This is already a technical health issue, but I am deeply concerned about the onset of satanization that is going on, how easy a resource to say something is being done about hostels. It is said that dormitories in pilgrim shelters are little less than covachas or nests that favor infection, and that spaces will have to be reduced and more reduced in private rooms. Please denounce everything you can this great fallacy, because in a hostel you absolutely share all the spaces, all, from the toilets with showers to the kitchen and dining room, and the living room if there is, and even terraces and gardens. And by the way, also the rural homes, pensions and top hotels have shared spaces, where everyone ends up going to certain hours of the day, and they are not usually large spaces where you can maintain the safety distance of 2 meters, not even in the 5*.

Setting a Turkish head can lead to a rebellion in the shelters, for many promised aid, and let us not forget that the shelters are an essential part of the way to do the Camino, heirs to the hospitals or harbors of yesterday, that is, the bone of the Camino. Believing that a problem such as the current one can be solved by decree is a more typical illusion of nineteenth-century romanticism.

.- What would be your recommendation for:

Administrations. That first of all they give good advice, act prudently, without seeking as always the media effect, and that they do not put propaganda first, as is already happening with the Xacobeo 2021, to wisdom and reality.

Associations. For think and debate, from your knowledge of the Camino and hostel management, and be patient and forget about the culture of subsidy that some love so much, because now money is needed for more urgent things. They must also be partners with the pilgrims to keep them informed of developments.

Hospitals (Donor Shelters) on the one hand and, on the other, for private Camino hostels that are very concerned about a likely lack of income in 2020?

I fully understand the concern, on the one hand the frustrated illusion of those who cannot go to the Camino, also hospitable who have in their commitment and give a reason for their life, I know many who are really suffering. And of course, because I've had a business on the Camino for several years, and now I've been left without paying the rent of my landlord, who I've been forgiven for as long as this situation lasts, I understand perfectly, and it affects me personally, what's happening. Some will not be able with a year's standstill, there is already talk of between 15% and 30% of closures, which I sincerely do not think will come as much on the Camino, because most businesses are small, family, even without employees, which favors their resilience. I am perplexed at the policy of aid cascades around the world, because as revenue decreases, it can only come from indebtedness and the subsequent rise in taxes, and this leads to a long structural crisis.

.- Do you think the Camino will be strengthened from this pandemic?

I firmly believe that the Camino will be strengthened, but not the Camino that we knew so far, but one closer to the one that existed in the 1990s, until the Xacobeo was born in 1993. A Camino with many fewer pilgrims, more familiar, introspective, less touristic, without the agencies causing havoc with their tour packages, without so much commodification. A very big risk on the horizon: that certain elements of the private sector want to eliminate competition, now that cows are skinny, and target donor shelters, parishes or audiences. This is something that has already begun. I fear an incarnate struggle for survival, as in wild nature, and that is where administrations have to have left hand to control excesses, moderate ambitions and reassure, above all, staff.

It is certainly not going to be anything easy, so I wish you great luck, and hard hand with all the illegals that have camped their widths, it is true that increasingly fewer, in times of kindness and crowds. And by the way, the new Camino should be that of respect for the traditional values of the route and quality, not the quantity and the cutrage associated with the massification and low cost. Numerus clausus could also be a good time antidote: not giving more licences for tourist activity in the Camino area in a good season.

Adeline Rucquoi

PhD in History, member of the International Committee of Experts of the Camino de Santiago


1 - Do you think there will be a reopening of the Camino this summer? Should it have been? I don't know if
there will be a "reopening of the Camino" this summer. First because you can't consider the Camino as if it was a room, it closes and reopens, or an event that has start and end dates. The Camino is always "open". It exists as long as there are pilgrims walking around. If next summer the confinement in Spain and other European countries has been lifted, if trains or planes are reactivated, if you can cross borders and go freely from one region to another, there may be pilgrims on the Camino. So this depends on the degree of freedom that people are given in the coming months.Then, of course,
it depends on the fear that people have of getting infected. To the extent that, in the foreign press, Spain appears systematically as one of the worst European regions in terms of contagion, it may be that, although there is freedom of movement, pilgrims do not return this year to the Camino. The
Camino belongs to no one, with which one cannot "close" or "open". All you can do is restrict your access, or prevent it. As soon as restrictions or prohibition are removed... Who knows?

2.-What would be your recommendation for:Administrations,
various reasons - political, economic, etc. - they tend to facilitate passage to pilgrims. They may try to attract them by such or such itinerary, improve signaling, publish leaflets, etc., but pilgrimage does not depend on them. If the pilgrims are no longer on the Camino, I believe that the only thing the administrations can do is to help financially those affected by this diminution, until the Vendaval passes, and perhaps communicate more, in other autonomous regions and abroad, insisting on security and the measures taken. You may take this opportunity to reflect on the current "turn" that you see on the Camino. There is a search for "sense of life," and perhaps the pandemic will strengthen that spiritual search. To the extent that we do not live in a Muslim or Buddhist country, where esotericism provides few answers, I believe that the administrations should work with the Church to give the Camino a more spiritual touch (which will also be historic). There will never be any obligation. But if you have to pay a gentleman or a lady for the church of the people to be open, let it be done. Pilgrims appreciate sitting in it (there are benches, silence, and there is no need to pay a consumption). If you have to give some explanations about what a saint is, a Virgin, or what an altar is for, do it, just as a castle is explained or the name of a tree is indicated. It is a service for pilgrims, knowing that you can never "force" someone to go to Santiago de Compostela...

Associations were created to promote devotion to the apostle James, and to help pilgrims. They have their own lives with their members, organize meetings, meals or dinners, walk longer or less long, maintain a website, publish newsletters, also organize conferences, etc. They can improve these activities, also take advantage this year to check the signs of the roads, agree with the clergy to open the churches, and with the mayors if there are monuments that should open their doors at suitable times for pilgrims, review perhaps the documentation they give, or credentials, become local tourist guides, etc. In other words, associations can use this year to prepare next year.

Hospitals (Donor Shelters) on the one hand and, on the other hand, for private Camino hostels that are very concerned about a likely lack of income in
2020?Associations perfectly understand what happens. Just as they understood the problems posed by, say, bedbug pests. You have to know that this year will probably be a year without pilgrims. They should be rebated in their expenses so that they can maintain the hostels that they irrigate until 2021, Holy Year compostelan. For the rest, they will suffer like all businesses, small businesses, etc. that have had to close and do not know whether they will be able to re-open (I do not see how their situation is different from that of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, employees, etc.). ). Everybody's there, we're worried ...

3 - Do you think the Camino can strengthen this pandemic?

If the Camino is able to offer the pilgrims what they seek in it, from a unique experience to the meaning of each one's life, yes. On the other hand, if tourism seems to be the only important thing - robbing the pilgrim to buy this or the other, to visit things that do not have to do with the Camino, filling the roads with carriers of backpacks, buses landing "pilgrims" to walk five kilometers, high prices in the hostels, bathing resorts for pilgrims, trains of the "Camino de Santiago", etc - the Camino will not attract, no The pilgrim seeks something "authentic". If administrations and associations do not control hostels, restaurants, the Camino itself, so that it does not lose its soul... it will get worse.

Well, this is what I can tell you on the go (never said better). When I talk to you about the role of the Church, don’t think I do it in a plan of proselytizing. I have just read a thesis that should have already been read at the university of Toulouse, but you are waiting for the lockdown to end. I'm in court. It's a thesis in "Information and Communication Sciences." Nothing to do with history or religion. It's a study of current pilgrims through what they put on the Internet. A thesis for a French university, that is, secular. It turns out that the interviewees all talk about this search for meaning, about what impressed them to see churches, images, nature, the encounter with so many people from all countries, etc., how many have regained faith, how others say they found it, how some say that the experience changed them and that they are more sensitive to what is not practical and materialistic life... I got a lot of attention. They appreciated the lack of comfort, the dispossession of the useless, living among themselves, generous hospitality.


Engineer of Roads, expert in intervention projects

in the Cultural Heritage of Public Works

I believe that I do not believe that people will be encouraged, unless it is carried out by a religious feeling of thanksgiving, of a request for a favour or a simple memory. It may be a good circumstance for the Camino to return to its true essence and origin that would not come badly, although it is impossible to limit it to that feeling, and it is said to you by a non-believer. If there may also be other very valuable intentions or feelings, but of course what I have been able to appreciate and know from other experiences, on many occasions has a sporty, playful (always, please) and multitudinous, driven by advertising and contagion like virus (so much so). Of course I admit (there would be no shortage) that everyone should carry out those activities that it considers appropriate, but I do not think that the pilgrim or walker would have to know other aspects of his 'walking', in order to do so with greater peace, with an interest in history, the natural and cultural heritage of the territories that he crosses, 'socialize' with the people that he finds himself, and participate with his rural economy (the empty land). It is not sustainable, in the long term, that the Camino supports the majority 'low-economy tourism'.

The conditions, I believe, would be the general ones prescribed for the return to a situation of progressive 'deconfinement'.

I could hardly recommend to the administrations, as I imagine they will have good advisers. However, based on professional experiences, I believe that it would be appropriate to have master plans that address the maintenance of long-term roads with criteria applicable to the various geographical and technical-constructive conditions that preserve the 'naturalness' of economically viable roads. Total accessibility is impossible and natural conditions should not be overturned or minimized by the 'comfort' of the walker.

I do not know if it will be strengthened, but everything that will help to 'depopulate' it, to favor an environment of recollection (for that of meeting oneself) which, I believe, is one of the best things of 'making the Way', to reduce the 'speed' of the walker, to increase interest for people, history, natural cultural heritage, etc., whether it is.


Professor d'Història de l'Art Medieval

Departament d'Art i Musicologia (Autonomous University of Barcelona)

-Do you think there will be a reopening of the Camino this summer? Should it have been? Under what conditions? I think not until a vaccine is found.

.- What would be your recommendation for:

--Administrations: Wait for the vaccine


Wait for the vaccine

-Hospitals (Donation Hostels) on the one hand and, on the other hand, for private hostels on the Camino that are very concerned about a likely lack of income in 2020? The regional administrations should give them compensation as is happening with other jobs.

.- Do you think the Camino will be strengthened from this pandemic? I doubt it a lot, but it will certainly survive, perhaps reinventing it intellectually, which is what is most missing.


Archaeologist, specialized in biological and biomolecular analysis

.-Do you think there will be a reopening of the Camino this summer? Should it have been? Under what conditions? I think there will be a slight and very controlled reopening of the Camino de Santiago, especially between mid-July and the first half of September. After this, a possible rebound in the number of people infected with COVID-19 will require action (all with this in the current scenario, perhaps the appearance of drugs or vaccine can change things, which I doubt a lot). The reopening must take place but with a more national tourism approach, with control of the number of people per hostel, access to temples, etc.

.- What would be your recommendation for:

Administrations: I believe that this year should be taken as something anomalous and focus primarily on next year. For the summer some pilgrimage should be encouraged, but locally or nationally. It would perhaps be interesting if, together with the associations, small journeys were promoted aimed at visiting and disseminating small populations with their cultural and gastronomic heritage, directed to a relatively close audience (e.g. promoting the Camino De Santiago for people from the same autonomous community or the neighboring autonomous community to know their own heritage).

Associations: to promote very organized routes but with shorter prospects or fewer people.

Hospitals (Donor Shelters) on the one hand and, on the other, for private Camino hostels that are very concerned about a likely lack of income in 2020? There must be a very good and extensive organization among all hostels and hostels. Maybe new technologies can play an important role in this. You have to control the number of people and you may be able to book well in advance. It is essential not only to control cleaning, but also to show it, as well as security and distance measures.

.- Do you think the Camino will be strengthened from this pandemic? I believe that you should play a marketing campaign in your favour. The Camino represents a spiritual and adventurous journey, while it can be "simple" and "austere". Many people will be directly or indirectly affected by Covid-19. Perhaps doing the “I have a lot to thank” maxim, and “valuing small things and people” (socializing), can push to revitalize the Road. We are seeing signs of great generosity, solidarity and social recognition. To give an image of Social Path, for the whole world, with which to thank or even ask for changes, as well as to give a new approach and change to the life of each, valuing small things and above all that the people dear or for knowing. In short: a “Way to know your home” in 2020 (more local tourism, less numerous and with a more cultural and close focus); and in 2021 “A Way to Thank, a Way to Change”.



I have a great doubt about what you are asking us because, on the one hand, there are our intentions as a whole and what you can actually do or do not do at the level of the restrictions that you can put in and which I assume will be quite strict no matter how much you want to sell the opposite. This refers to the Camino and walkers as we do to archaeological interventions. Personally, and it is the opinion of a layman, I see very, very complicated the viability of the Camino in the present circumstances, who controls the travelers, whether they are healthy or not? Who properly disinfects a place where different people are going to sleep every day? And so does the casualty with all the questions and beams that we want to put about it or put on us.

To tell the truth, I do not see it very clear and it is a very complicated decision to take for the different interests it entails, but he thinks that if a much more media and economic activity more relevant such as sports (football, cycling, olympics, ball,...) arise the temporary shutter downhill that may have relevance to this one of the Camino. It is true that the conditions for mobilising people are diametrically different, but the law that applies to one must also apply to others.

In short, I don't know if I've really clarified something or not, but we're in the same tessitura. We can't advertise excavations if we don't yet know that they're going to let us do it and not.


Hostel of pilgrims Santa Ana erromesan aterpetxea Pasai Donibane


The Camino de Santiago (physical) will continue, the hostels I doubt very much that the authorities give the green light to open in safe sanitary conditions. We will always be attentive to what the health and governance authorities say. Once they give the green light, the conditions would be the same and without any risk to hospital volunteers.


Administration: a lot of security. Associations are always prepared to do what the health authorities prescribe. Hospital volunteers do not drink any risk and I think private people think the same.

3.- CRES QUE EL CAMINO……………………

The Camino de Santiago (pilgrimages) has been existeined for about a thousand years, and has had many conflicts, epidemics wars etc. Like this one, we will see what happens when this is over...??? ?, The physical path will continue and hospital volunteers……….? ?


President of the Association of Friends of the Roads A santiago, de Deba.

Santiagorako Bideen Debako Lagunak.

I think it is neither prudent nor desirable, nor will the Camino be opened this summer, nor this autumn. There are no conditions for opening it.

To the administrations: that the safety, health of pilgrims, that of hospital volunteers, and that of the rest of the population living near the Camino, are above the economic benefits that the Camino can bring us. We are demonstrating this in recent weeks both the administrations and all citizens.

For associations: The Associations promote (we must) the Camino as a mixture of social values that we can call "the spirit of the Camino" , not economic. So we work voluntarily. It is clear that the pandemic does not end when the state of alert is lifted, the risk will continue as long as there are few infected, began with a few, and the Hostels are a focus of diffusion, due to the heterogeneity of walkers, their mobility and the close coexistence between them and the populations. And the pandemic is and will be expanding, in situations of expansion in other countries of origin of pilgrims.

The Camino can emerge reinforced from this situation and return to the character it had a decade ago, when it was less massive.

To do so, however, it is necessary that a "natural" return be made, to say in some way, soft and safe, very safe, allowing it to be opened up by itself, without any publicity means, that it is the pilgrims themselves who are interested who go on their own initiative and interest. As revitalized , as it has been in the last 1,000 years.

On the other hand, it should be taken into account that the AMCS represents municipalities, possibly a large majority of the French Way, that runs through sparsely populated areas with small municipalities, in which the Camino is a source of life, of remarkable economy. And I understand that it affects them strongly and that they try to recover it as quickly as possible.

But this is not our case. This is not the case of the Basque Associations because we do not seek in economic interest, although we do in part seek the image and/or knowledge of the country. Nor is the government of the Basque Country where the contribution of the Camino to the economy is invaluable, in the whole country and also in that of the populations through which it passes.

Alberto Cantero

Association Friends of the Camino de Santiago de Bizkaia

As for those questions you ask us, I believe that at least we have no idea of opening the Hostels, until we are certain that we can receive the Pilgrims in perfect condition, both for them, and for the Hospital who are receiving them in the hostels.

The recommendations for the Associations will be that we have patience and do not worry that the road is always there, and even if it costs, "THAT WILL COST" , there will be times of agglomeration and then we will be protesting for the massification of the road again, surely those who were used to making a profit from the Hostels will be putting their hands on top, but we believe that the welfare of "ALL" has to prevail.

And as to whether the Camino will be strengthened, I think that NO, that we are going to walk and stay in the Hostels with fear for a long time and the Hospiters will become more suspicious and authoritarian by fear, with any symptoms we think we notice in anyone who approaches, and at that moment we will come back to the head of the whole process.

We will have to be careful and let this be forgotten with some prudential time, in order to receive and care for those who come walking with sufficient guarantees that everything is over and we have forgotten the "Bug" that will be difficult.

As for the administrations, I would ask you a little Compression and Help for the Associations that we are at the mercy of the canyon every day of the year, even teleoperating from home at all hours and days of the year, and this "Pandemic will make it a little difficult for us to cope with the expenses that it causes to have closed and continue to pay all the receipts and expenses of the premises and hostels, as the season was already planned.


Hostel of Pilgrims of Guemes (Cantabria)

This text comes to me through a blog from a Madrid reporter, very dear friend of mine, and it is worth reflecting on its content. Now everyone is waiting for the virus to expire. We think little about the sequelae it will leave. And much less in changing attitudes of a society that advocates destruction.

Something should be said about the future of the Camino. It gives the feeling that the biggest problem is the opening of the Camino and, therefore, the Hostels. Of course, the Jubilee Year is already very close. But wouldn’t it be better to walk towards the discovery of the Spirit of the Way.’ The pilgrims will gradually come in.

I believe that the fundamental thing is to overcome this pandemic and analyse the future. I don't know. Maybe it's something too idealistic. Tell me how you see going preparing some meetings in this line?. Cantabria is very uncoordinated. Associations do not exist practically. But there are a lot of people who, directly or indirectly, are very close to the Camino. We should work in that area. We now have time to think before we make decisions in haste.

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