Meaningless bureaucracy?

The truth is that I lack information.

I can’t tell if the end goal makes sense or not.

I am talking about the application of “Hospederías” where the Guardia Civil is informed of the entries of travelers.

You could say that it is an accumulation of nonsense.

I hope no one is offended.

Let’s say that there is an accumulation of opportunities for improvement.

We are talking about a country like Spain where, in years without coronavirus, there are more than 80 million foreign tourists a year. Add domestic travel, business trips and anything else that requires spending the night away from home.

And I say this because I have spent more than 25 years working in the world of tourism. I’ve seen (and even participated in) how an information-based business has gone totally digital. How from having to go to an agency or a tour operator’s brochure to know something about how to organize a trip has gone to going to the agency with all the information just to close the reservations.

If it was necessary to go to the agency.

We’ll talk about this another day.

And then you take the plane or the boat or the car or the scooter.

And when you arrive at the hotel, apartment, campsite or holiday home you have to present your passport so that the Authority is informed.

Nothing to say about security issues. Absolutely nothing.

I feel much safer knowing that someone is reviewing that information.

Even if there is a 24 hour window to send that information and the “bad guy” may have already left the establishment.

Although, in a place like Mallorca I assume and hope that they have already done these checks to 99.999% of the population before boarding the plane or ship.

And although it is quite easy to make a mistake when copying a long ID or passport number.

And even if the names of foreigners have the bad habit of using characters that do not exist in our vocabulary.

Was that grammar? lexicon? I don’t know. Too many years ago when I was studying those things.

As I was saying, nothing to say to the security issues.

Although I have my doubts that the security improvement compensates for the work it generates.

A lot to say about the systems behind all this.

I say this with full knowledge of the facts: I manage a house that is in vacation rental of my family. So we are obliged to follow these procedures.

Point One

So, as soon as we got the vacation rental license, we went to the Guardia Civil barracks in the area where the house is located. Very kindly we are attended by a Guardia Civil who checks the documentation (actually he only looks at the registration form, who is going to bother to apply for the registration if he doesn’t have all the rest of the papers in order?) and registers it in the system through his computer.

This is where the fun begins. The Civil Guard wants to show us how the application works. So he takes out his own cell phone and tries to access the website.

And the website fails.

He tries a couple of times and it keeps crashing.

I had already checked the application and consulted the manuals so I was more or less clear, but it always makes life happy to see that there are people who want to go a step beyond their obligation.

So I ask him “why do you use your personal cell phone instead of the computer where we could see it much better?”

And he answers me that they have restricted access from their computer only to certain official applications.

We are talking about 2019.

I remember in the tourism company where I worked we tried to do something like this around 2000. When people didn’t have a cell phone to surf the internet or enough data line to watch videos of hot sites. And in a company with 5000 employees there are always people who try to abuse doing, let’s put it this way, things that have nothing to do with their work.

So after a few months we had to eliminate this control. It was unfeasible to be opening and closing the sites that could be accessed from the company. When someone from human resources needed to access a website with information necessary for their work, they had to request it and wait hours or days for someone to open the website. The same if it was someone from finance or IT or from some office that had to verify some data of a destination or a hotel. Totally unfeasible. So the control was cancelled.

In the Guardia Civil those controls still exist.

No comment on what that means.

And when they have to test, even an access to one of their own webs, they have to use their own personal phone to bypass that control and be able to give correctly the service expected of them.

By the way, the website failed because it was down. A few hours later it was working perfectly.

But that’s not all. There is more.

Point Two

A little over a month ago an email from the Guardia Civil arrived. One of those that make you stand up when you see the sender. Almost as much as those from the Treasury.

In the mail they warn us that we have not been registering travelers’ reports for a long time (COVID stuff) and that we had to fill in, sign and send a document to request the temporary cancellation.

And I say “they warn us” because it is copied to 73 other hotels and vacation homes in the area. Yes, yes. Normal, visible copy. No hidden copy. Long live the General Data Protection Regulation.

Now we have a list of all the individuals interested in setting up a syndicate of holiday homes in the area. Thank you!

Obviously within a few minutes there is a festival of responses of all kinds. From “I submitted this document 8 months ago” to “I am enclosing the completed form” with all the sender’s details. Including his telephone number, his father’s name and his mother’s name.

Luckily within a few minutes we kindly get a reminder to stop replying to that email and send replies only to a specific email address.

But that’s not all. There’s more.

Point Three

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve logged into the app.

It’s actually quite simple. It asks you for 9 pieces of information about each person including first name, last name, ID type and number, gender, dates of birth, ID expiration and entry to the establishment.

I don’t know if I left anything out.

And when you have registered one, you can register the next one.

The normal thing when a group or a family enters is that they all enter on the same day and are from the same country. So after registering the entry of a German on the 28th, it cleans the passenger’s data, but it keeps Germany and the 28th.

But when you have already filled in the second traveler’s data and you press the confirm button it tells you that you have to fill in the country again. Actually you are seeing Germany, but it doesn’t like it.

So you have to go to the dropdown and change Germany to Albania and put Germany again.

When you put in the country it clears the document type field and you have to select the ID card or passport option again.

Then the new passenger is confirmed.

In the first vocational training exam you will be failed if you submit the practice with these usability errors. Which, on the other hand, are very easy to correct.

The appearance of the application is 20 years old.

By the way, do not try to use it from a cell phone. Not without a magnifying glass at least.

The application allows you to import files. I guess for hotels, which have specific software at the front desk, those files should be automatically generated and maybe even uploaded to the system.

I hope this is the case because if you have to manually upload the tickets of hundreds of millions of people every year using this application we are generating quite a lot of useless work for a lot of people.

I imagine that going through all of this involves doing a public tender which must cost its own.


In conclusion, I don’t know if this information is useful or not.

Let’s assume that it is useful and improves our safety in some way.

And let’s suppose that health reasons (such as COVID-19) do not advise us to stop using paper, pens, manual signatures or to minimize check-in time in hotels where contact between customers and staff is increasing.

The truth is that there are many opportunities for improvement to obtain and record this information quickly and reliably.

It could be sufficient to photograph the identity document and upload it to a central server. In this way we could perform the security control at the moment, avoid data transcription errors, avoid thousands of hours of work of intermediaries, possible problems (and big fines if you don’t do it right) for having to file and guard this information and health risks of touching papers.

I don’t know. This is the first thing that comes to my mind.

How much is invested per year in R&D in Spain?

Does anyone question whether we need this bureaucracy in the 21st century?