Spain is aiming to welcome British tourists back without the need for a negative Covid test from 20 May, the country’s tourism minister has confirmed, as she urged overseas visitors to come and “enjoy a perfect holiday after the worst year of our lives”.
Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of an €8m campaign to lure back visitors, María Reyes Maroto said Spain was opening up again and was particularly keen for the return of UK holidaymakers.
The minister said two safety systems were in place to guarantee visitors’ health: the EU green digital certificate, which from June will show if the holder has been vaccinated, tested or recently recovered from Covid, and the forthcoming updating of EU recommendations on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.
“The recommendations will be reviewed in the [EU] foreign affairs council on 20 May, and that will allow us to provide certainty to markets outside the European Union when it comes to the restarting of travel – especially travel from the UK, which is our largest market,” said Reyes Maroto.
“If all goes well, from 20 May – although there’s always a bit of the unknown over the evolution of the pandemic in the countries we’re focusing on with the campaign, though the numbers from the UK look good on both vaccination and accumulated incidence – Britons will be able to come to Spain. What’s more, they won’t be asked for a PCR test when they arrive in the country. I think it’s really good news.”
Much, however, will depend on whether the UK government moves Spain into the green list of countries Britons will be allowed to visit from 17 May. At the moment, Spain is in the amber category, meaning those returning to the UK will have to quarantine for 10 days and take two Covid tests.
Reyes Maroto said Spain, which relies on tourism for about 12% of its GDP, would not foot the bill for visitors’ tests as the huge sums involved would be better spent elsewhere.
She pointed out that Spain received 83.5 million tourists in 2019, adding: “We hope to get at least half as many this year. If we’re lucky, we’ll get even more, which would mean paying for PCR tests for 45 million international tourists. We’d need to think whether public money would be better spent on other things.”
The minister also pointed out that Spain’s vaccination programme was picking up pace. To date, more than 14 million of the country’s 47 million population have received a single jab, while more than 6.3 million have had both doses of the vaccine.
“If all goes well, we could get 70% of the population vaccinated even before the end of summer, which would be great news for everyone because we need to start leaving the pandemic behind – especially the tourist sector, a lot of which has been closed for 14 months despite huge efforts to reinvent itself,” she said.
Despite the optimism, however – and a continuing decline in the national infection rate – some regions of Spain are still reporting significantly higher number of cases per 100,000 people than others.
Across Spain, the number of cases per 100,000 people stands at 180; in the Madrid region, it is 291, and in the Basque Country, 387.
Reyes Maroto joined Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, in lamenting the “freedom” slogans used by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the recently reelected conservative president of the Madrid region, during her campaign.
González Laya said Ayuso’s focus on the importance of “going for a beer or going to watch a bullfight” was distracting people from the fight against the pandemic and helping to keep Spain off the UK’s green list. When Spain’s six-month state of emergency ended on Sunday, thousands of people took to the streets for impromptu celebrations that were criticised by politicians and medical experts.
“The comments Ayuso made in the campaign about freedom and being able to do anything in Madrid don’t help, and they don’t help raise awareness,” said Reyes Maroto.
“But it’s not just Madrid; there are other regions that need to bring the number of cases down. Madrid accounts for a lot of the cases, but in any case everyone in Spain – including the people of Madrid – need to be aware that freedom isn’t the same as recklessness, and that we need to respect the safety rules.”