CORONAVIRUS

Spanish tourism industry welcomes UK decision to lift amber list quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers

The measure, effective on July 19, is good news on a day when a French government official recommended against travel to Spain and Portugal

The arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport in London.
The arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport in London.Reuters

The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, on Thursday confirmed that starting on July 19, UK residents who are fully vaccinated through the National Health Service will no longer have to quarantine when they return to England from amber travel list countries. Under-18s returning from amber list destinations will not be required to self-isolate either.

Most British travelers’ favorite tourist destinations are currently on the amber list, including mainland Spain and the Canary Islands (but not the Balearic Islands, which were recently placed on the green list).

Additionally, the recommendation against travel to amber list countries will be removed, said Shapps. Fully vaccinated adults will still need to pay for Covid tests before and after their return.

The news is highly welcome in Spain, where the tourism sector is fearing a new wave of cancellations as the delta strain of the coronavirus continues to spread. On Thursday morning, France’s secretary of state for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, recommended that French nationals avoid traveling to Spain and Portugal.

The UK is the main source of foreign visitors to Spain: there were 18 million of them in 2019. For the Spanish tourism industry, what’s at stake is €483 million a week in July and €495 million a week in August. That’s how much revenue UK travelers represented in July and August 2019, according to figures provided by the industry group Exceltur using data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) and the Bank of Spain.

The Spanish government is expecting around 17 million international arrivals this summer – just 45% of those who came in the summer of 2019 but three times more than in the summer of 2020. A record 83.5 million tourists visited Spain in 2019. By comparison, there were 3.2 million between January and May of this year, a drop of 26 million from the same period in 2019.

A steady decline in transmission and a good pace of vaccination had fueled hopes of a reasonably successful summer season. But the current spread of the coronavirus among the younger, unvaccinated population is creating fears of new international travel restrictions that would lead to canceled bookings.

English version by Susana Urra.

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