At 10.54am on Monday, a flight from the German city of Düsseldorf arrived at the Palma de Mallorca airport in the Balearic Islands carrying the first foreign tourists to have visited Spain in three months, when the country closed its borders in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus.
On board the plane, chartered by the TUI travel group, were a total of 189 passengers, including around 20 journalists. The rest were German tourists who will kick off the archipelago’s summer vacation season as part of a special tourism pilot scheme. Thanks to this program between Germany and the Balearic Islands, visitors will be able to enter Spain before the country officially reopens its borders with all European Union and Schengen-area countries on June 21. What’s more, they will not not have to observe the 14-day quarantine currently in place for all visitors.
The tourists’ experience will be used to test the safety protocols adopted by the Spanish tourism sector to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion
Despite the arrivals on Monday, the Son Sant Joan de Palma airport was still far from what it would be like in the middle of June in a normal year. Outside, a cemetery of rental cars lay in waiting. Inside, flight-information monitors showed just a dozen flight arrivals for the entire day.
Few would have thought that the arrival of a group of German tourists in the Balearic Islands would have been big news. But the terminal was filled with journalists from dozens of media outlets tasked with covering the arrival of 200 residents from Düsseldorf. Their experience will be used to test the safety protocols adopted by the Spanish tourism sector to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion.
“I am very happy to have come. I have been coming here for more than 10 years and I feel very safe. I am going to the Riu Concordia Hotel in Palma beach,” said Gabriela, who will spend a week in Mallorca with a friend. Both admitted that they were not tested for Covid-19 before catching the plane. “We are very pleased to have come, it is a great opportunity,” her friend added, while police officers tried to maintain order as reporters swarmed to interview the arrivals.
The Balearic Islands has become the first destination in Spain to reopen to international tourists, thanks to a pilot tourism plan that was greenlighted by the central government last week. Under the program, 10,900 visitors from Germany will visit the archipelago over the next 15 days, staying for a minimum of five nights. The program has been marketed by three tour operators and airlines – TUI, DER Touristik y Schauinslad-Reisen – and the visitors will stay in several hotels in the beach areas of Palma, Alcúdia and Cala D’Or in Mallorca, and in establishments in Menorca and Ibiza.
The flights will run from the German airports of Düsseldorf, Frankfort, Hamburg, Hanover and Stuttgart. The aim is to test the efficiency of the coronavirus safety measures before Spain reopens its borders with all EU and Schengen-area countries, although this will be happening sooner than was initially expected, on June 21.
If any of the visitors begin to show coronavirus symptoms they will be transferred to apartments, provided by regional authorities to isolate suspected cases
“I am staying in Palma [in Mallorca] the last time I was here was in January in our apartment and then they cancelled everything. I have been very sad because I love the island and the Spanish people,” said George, who has an apartment close to Manacro, but will spend a few days in a hotel in Palma beach.
“I think the Germans want to come because they feel safe,” added Kalsten, who arrived with just a backpack.
The visitors who arrived in Mallorca on Monday were destined for two different hotels: the Riu hotel in Palma beach, which is aimed at German tourists, and the Alcúdia Garden in the north of the island. The regional government of the Balearic Islands will monitor the tourists’ situation and if any of the visitors begin to show coronavirus symptoms they will be transferred to apartments, provided by regional authorities to isolate suspected cases.
Tourists must fill out a form with information about any coronavirus symptoms they might have, and their contact address during their stay in Spain. They will also have their temperature taken to check whether they have a fever.
English version by Melissa Kitson.