Opening of Spain's borders to tourists in July could be staggered by region

A beach in Galicia on Thursday this week.
A beach in Galicia on Thursday this week. / EFE
  • The government hopes to agree on the criteria for allowing borders to open with fellow EU countries. Quarantine rules will be lifted before July, say ministers

"Spain will be waiting for you from July," the prime minister said at a press conference on Saturday, when he announced that the country would reopen its borders to international tourism this summer "in conditions of safety".

Government ministers have since confirmed that the current two-week quarantine requirement for anyone entering Spain would be lifted before tourists started to arrive in July.

Foreign minister Arancha González Laya said, "In the month of July international tourism will resume gradually and quarantine will be lifted," in a Twitter message posted prior to an inter-ministerial meeting on Tuesday.

The minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, said that the quarantine would only last as long as the state of alarm, which at present is in force until 7 June. She too, encouraged foreign tourists, especially French and Germans, to visit Spain this summer. This came in response to statements made by a French minister last weekend who encouraged her compatriots not to visit Spain for their holidays due to the government's "contradictory" measures.

Staggered reopening

On Thursday González Laya said in an interview that the government had not ruled out a staggered reopening of its frontiers, with some regions being able to welcome international visitors before others.

She stressed that the Spanish government wanted to agree on the criteria that would allow frontiers to open with its EU partners. Opening up some regions and not others to tourism, she said, would be permitted by the European Commission, but what is important is "to define which conditions are considered safe".

Although quarantine is set to be lifted, the Spanish government has stressed that reopening the country for international tourism will involve health and safety controls as visitors arrive. It has not yet clarified whether this would involve body temperature checks or Covid-19 testing.

"Spain needs tourism and tourism needs safety [in the countries of] origin and safety in the destination, and for that reason we will guarantee that tourists are not at risk here and that they don't bring risks to our country," said Sánchez on Saturday.

Mixed reactions

The president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation, Jorge Marichalar, welcomed the news, which he described as "very positive" for the industry, and "a lifeline" for many companies. He also called for "very powerful" promotional campaigns, saying "just because tourists can come, doesn't mean they will come".

In Andalucía, the regional vice-president and Tourism minister, Juan Marín, was optimistic this week, even forecasting 60 per cent of reservations for August and September in the region.

According to Marín, "The international markets are still very active and the airlines are going to start recovering flights in June to return to a position of relative normality in July."

Less optimism

Many local tourism professionals on the Costa del Sol are not so optimistic, however.

Co-owner of the holiday rentals and property management firm Bonasol, Marcus Stephan, believes that the authorities, rather than rushing out to save this season, should be providing a survival plan to help small businesses make it through to next year.

"It's very difficult to remain optimistic," he told SUR in English, adding that he was only receiving cancellations and so far the news that the country could open up in July had not sparked new reservations.

As far as visitors from the UK, the Costa del Sol's biggest international tourist market, he explained that people are still wary of booking holidays for numerous reasons.

"People are getting mixed messages. Until the Foreign Office lifts its advice against international travel people are not going to book," he said, adding that the current situation also raises concerns about insurance.

He also said that some of the restrictions in force due to Covid-19 regarding the use of beaches, pools and having to wear face masks are likely to put visitors off. "It's not a relaxing holiday environment," he said.

Stephan did say that his business had had some enquiries from Spanish tourists, a market that is likely to pick up before the rest.

Indeed the prime minister on Saturday called for people in Spain to plan their holidays and to make the most of the "wonders" this country has to offer.

From 22 June the government is to create "safe corridors" to link areas of Spain that have moved into Phase Three of the plan to ease lockdown restrictions.