Spain - Tourism

Spain pins hopes of economic rebound on tourism as borders reopen

People enjoy the weather on Levante beach in Benidorm, Spain, June 6, 2021.
People enjoy the weather on Levante beach in Benidorm, Spain, June 6, 2021. REUTERS - STRINGER

In a bid to revive a key sector of its economy devastated by the pandemic, Spain reopened its borders on Monday to people from around the world who have been vaccinated. 

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In a further easing of restrictions, unvaccinated Europeans, who were already allowed to travel to the country, but had to show a negative PCR of less than 72 hours, will now be able to make do with a much cheaper antigen test.

For professionals in the tourism sector, today marks the return of foreign tourists, with Spain reeling after arrivals plummeted by 77 percent in 2020 after hosting some 83 million visitors the previous year.

José Luis Prieto, president of the Union of Travel Agencies (Unav), believes that there will be a "spectacular recovery" on Monday.

According to him, tour operators have seen "a great demand for information over the past three weeks from Great Britain, France and Germany", the three leading markets for the Spanish tourism sector.

From the Costa del Sol, to the Balearic and Canary Islands, hotels and restaurants have reopened for the occasion after months of closure.

In a tweet published this Monday, Tourism in Spain heralded the number of airline seats available for travel to the Malaga-Costa del Sol airport will be close to 3.5 million from June to September. 

The British "disappointment"

On the downside, the UK has kept Spain on a blacklist of high-risk countries, requiring British nationals to undergo a number of paid tests and to observe a five day quarantine upon their return. 

Since 24 May, Spain has been welcoming British tourists back into the country without having to present a PCR test. 

Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said Friday, however, that she didn't understand the UK's decision not to accept certain Spanish tourist regions on their "green list", such as the Balearic and Canary Islands, where the incidence rate of Covid-19 is lower than on the mainland. 

London is set to review its decision in three weeks' time, but they are precious weeks lost that could jeopardise the Spanish government's goal of attracting 45 million visitors this year.

Against this backdrop of "uncertainty", the world's leading tour operator TUI has cancelled all its flights to Spain until 13 June.

Highly dependent on tourism, the Spanish economy was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic in 2020, with a 10.8 percent drop in GDP.

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