Spanish customs officials are working overtime at this time of year as hordes of bargain-hunters cross from Spain into the tiny mountain state of Andorra, high in the Pyrenees.
Spanish customs officials are working overtime at this time of year as hordes of bargain-hunters cross from Spain into the tiny mountain state of Andorra, high in the Pyrenees. Duty-free goods have turned Andorra into a shoppers' paradise and one customs official on the Spanish frontier says that on a busy day as many as 20,000 people cross into the state to take advantage of the low prices.
Anything they declare to the customs costs a 33 per cant import charge -- but it's still cheaper than buying in Spain. Cameraman Mike Gore hit the cut-price road to Andorra at the weekend to film the rush for duty-free goods -- and its sequel at the customs' check-points.
SYNOPSIS: In Andorra -- the tiny mountain state high in the Pyrenees between spain and France -- there's major campaign to popularize the country's skiing facilities. They boast some of the finest slope in europe, and are building the ski lifts and hotels to cash in on the attractions. But a large proportion of the three million visitors who cross into the tiny state every year ignore the mountains and avoid the ski slopes. They've come to shop. And at this time of year money pours in from shoppers looking for duty-free Christmas presents.
Spanish cars jam the streets, bringing bargain-hunters from nearby Barcelona. the ten-thousand visitors arriving on sunday was a bit of disappointment. on a really good day, more than twice that number flock in to take advantage to low-priced radios, cameras and sporting gear -- and that means that the shoppers outnumber Andorra's twenty-thousand population. This year, the shopping spree co-incident with Andorra's general election. But there was little sign of campaigning or of election propaganda. "Andorra's are interested in commerce, not politics," explained one observer, to the accompaniment of ringing cash-registers. Once the Andorrans used to live largely by smuggling. Now they just sell the goods, and leave the tourists to get the merchandise cut of the country.
The moment of truth for would-be amateur smugglers comes at the Spanish border. The season of goodwill doesn't mean any relaxation in the vigilance of customs officials. Intricate searches produce television sets, cameras, even toys. Anything the shoppers declare to the customs will cost them a thirty-three per cent import charge. But they still find it cheaper than buying the equivalent goods in spain.
So this is Andorra during its general election week, busily taking over the motto once won by the English -- as Europe's nation of shopkeepers.