The Spanish government wants the country’s tourism sector to restart activity at the end of the month of June, coinciding with the conclusion of the last planned period of the state of alarm. Until now, the executive had a much more pessimistic outlook for summer tourism, due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and had practically written off the season.
The state of alarm was implemented in Spain on March 14, and gave the government extra powers that included the coronavirus lockdown, which was one of the strictest in the world. The country is now immersed in a deescalation plan, which is being implemented asymmetrically across Spain according to factors such as primary healthcare capacity. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is planning to request one last extension to the state of alarm – one of three emergency states under Spanish law – which will be in place until the end of June if approved by the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies.
Despite its hopes for the tourism sector, one of the key drivers of the Spanish economy, the government does not want to drop its guard against the coronavirus, and as such will focus the first stage of the summer on national tourism, according to statements made by a number of members of the government.
José Luis Ábalos, who is the transportation minister, said on Monday that if the coronavirus “deescalation goes well,” the tourism sector will be reactivated at the end of next month, and as such, “Spain must be made an attractive country from a healthcare perspective,” given that tourists will need “confidence” to travel here.
Ábalos added that the government has created a working group that has “specific proposals” to create “healthy tourist experiences,” that will be “completely controlled from a hygienic point of view” in a bid to stimulate the sector.
The minister stated that this “stimulation” will be focused “particularly on the islands,” in reference to the Balearics and the Canaries, where health levels “are very positive” and the tourist industry is “very strong,” and where there is a particular need for “tourism not to drop off.”
The minister defended the current measure of placing travelers arriving from outside Spain in a two-week quarantine for reasons of “coherence”
Among these measures, the minister said that the government would not be insisting that seats be left empty on passenger aircraft, although it will be calling on airlines to avoid crowds from forming and for social distancing measures to be observed.
Speaking on state broadcaster TVE, Ábalos defended the current measure of placing travelers arriving from outside Spain in a two-week quarantine for reasons of “coherence” with the current deescalation plan, given that it would be difficult to explain why foreign nationals could travel freely within Spain while Spanish citizens are currently confined to their provinces or other territorial units. He stated that when Spaniards can travel between provinces, foreigners will also be able to enter the country without quarantine.
These statements coincided with a plan announced by the government spokesperson María Jesús Montero, who, after a Cabinet meeting held on Sunday, said that a reactivation scheme based on gastronomic and cultural tourism on the mainland is being finalized with the main players in the sector.
But the optimism of the government does not tally with the feelings among citizens with regard to their vacation plans. One in four Spaniards believes that they will not take a vacation this summer and will not travel, according to a survey carried out by consultancy firm EY-Parthenon. The poll found that 41% will opt for national destinations, and only 9% believe that they will go abroad.
Another sign of that pessimism is the desire of 57.8% of travelers to receive a cash refund for canceled plane tickets, rather than a voucher to be used to purchase future flights, according to the online platform for legal services, reclamador.es.
English version by Simon Hunter.