Spain–the world’s No.2 travel destination–is reopening its borders to foreign tourists in July. Spain was also one of the worst hit by the coronavirus. Now as it emerges from one of the continent’s toughest lockdowns, foreign tourism has become part of the equation.
“As of July, Spain will be expecting you,” declared Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Saturday. “The moment has arrived …Foreign visitors can now start planning their holidays to Spain.”
Joy and sadness. The announcement came together with that of an official period of mourning in the country, lasting 10 days. (And news that the national top-tier football tournament, La Liga, can resume from June 8).
Just a week back, there was no clear horizon for Spanish holidays to return. Not without the threat of a 2 week quarantine on arrival. A measure in place since May 24, when borders reopened. (This as EU land and air borders, temporarily closed to corona, start to tumble ready for summer tourism).
But now the country is welcoming tourists back with open arms, like some neighbors are, in hopes for economic salvation. On top of suffering a huge health blow from the corona crisis, the blow to Spanish tourism has been huge. After France and ahead of the U.S., this is the world’s second most visited tourism destination. Lured by a heady mix of golden beaches, party islands, and rich culture and history, 80 million foreigners visit each year.
Tourism accounts for approximately 12% of the country’s GDP. Through the 2 month lockdown, which began March 14, about 1 million tourism and hospitality sector workers have been temporarily laid off. Those jobs are partially underpinned by nearly 20 million British tourists, for whom Spain is no.1 holiday destination. Their return just got a whole lot more complicated, with U.K. quarantine measures coming into effect on June 8.
Safety A Priority In Tourism Comeback
Safety is a lynchpin of the tourism restart Sánchez told a press conference. “Spain needs tourism and tourism needs safety … We will guarantee that the tourists won’t be at risk and won’t bring any added risk to our country.”
Spain is planning a government certification scheme for Covid-compliant tourist establishments he said. Hotels, restaurants, tour operators and others will get a kind of corona-safety stamp of approval. The government will soon announce more details of the health protocols for the travel industry.
All this to avoid a repeat, or second wave of the coronavirus. Spain has suffered more than 28,500 deaths among nearly 235,000 COVID-19 infections. And the virus, while well down, still lurks. “The hardest part is over. We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” Sánchez said. On Friday, there were 56 deaths, and 446 new cases reported according to health officials.
When quarantine rules end, and beach resorts reopen, holidaymakers can expect strict sanitary measures too. From hand washing to social distancing on beaches. Similar to measures in Italy. But also in line with EU guidelines for summer tourism recovery.
Country Opens To Domestic Tourism Then Foreign
On May 11, hotels and café terraces started reopening countrywide. Initially at about 30% capacity. Access to hotel common areas is closed. In the Balearic Islands most hotels so far have chosen to remain shut. Travel restrictions mean they have neither a Spanish nor foreign clientele. All that is about to change.
Domestic tourism was always the priority in Spain’s 4-phase lockdown exit. Spaniards have been given a green light to start planning holidays at home for June. “I publically invite all tourism establishments to start getting ready from today to begin to reboot activity,” said the Spanish PM.
One big question remains: How keen will foreign tourists be to return to Spain? Once such a hotbed of the virus in Europe. “Now the epicenter has moved to other parts of the planet,” Sánchez said. The U.S. for a start. Nonetheless some tourism players in the U.K. feel it may take months for traveler confidence to return.
Which Airlines Will Fly You To Spain In July?
Airlines too are warming up for the comeback. Spain (Barcelona) features among EasyJet’s 21 Europe destinations when it takes off again in June. More will be added with growing demand. Ryanair plans to fly in July. Good timing. Wizz Air is already selling at least a couple of flights a week to Tenerife from London Luton, though Spain’s travel ban for now excludes international tourists from landing. That and the threat of quarantines in both Spain and the U.K. As airlines worldwide take to Europe’s skies for summer, BA, together with sister airlines Aer Lingus, and Spain’s Iberia and Vueling, will have about 1,000 flights a day by July. Naturally Spain will feature heavily there.
As tourists start thinking of packing their bags for Spain in summer, Spanish flags meantime fly at half mast, during the national mourning. Yet hope is in the air.