Spain wants to welcome British tourists back as soon as its airports reopen to foreign visitors on 1 July, but has warned much will depend on the UKs 14-day coronavirus quarantine for those returning from abroad and on the British authorities rescinding advice on non-essential foreign travel.
Spains tourism minister, María Reyes Maroto, said that two pilot schemes will also see thousands of overseas holidaymakers, at least 6,000 of them German, arriving in the Balearic and Canary islands during the last two weeks of June.
Questionnaires and an app will be used to track the visitors and the information gathered will help the Spanish government and tourist sector prepare for the return of all foreign visitors from the beginning of July.
Maroto said Spains message to UK tourists – its largest single national visitor group – was simple: “As soon as possible, as soon as possible! We want British tourists to come back as soon as they can.”
But during a briefing with international correspondents on Thursday morning, the minister said there needed to be greater clarity from the British government about when UK tourists would be able to fly abroad, and on whether they would need to self-isolate on return.
“Were in touch with British authorities and tour operators regarding two elements that need to be resolved,” she said.
“One is the possible quarantine that the British government has announced. We know that there are pressures from the sector and that it could be taken off the agenda but whats really limiting movement right now are the restrictions from the Foreign Office.”
She said the Spanish government was keeping a close eye on the UKs virus numbers, adding that both countries were making “a very important effort to control the pandemic”.
In comments that further suggested the ball was in the UKs court, Maroto said: “Our constant contact with the British authorities will give us the certainty we need to be able to reopen things between the two countries so that well be able to receive the British tourists who are so fond of us as a destination as soon as we can.”
In an interview last week, the minister said that while she had spoken to British tour operators, the UKs coronavirus numbers “needed to improve”, adding: “The important thing for us is being able to guarantee that people are well when they arrive and well when they go home.”
During Thursdays briefing, Maroto also said that Spain would open its land borders with France and Portugal when the current state of emergency ends on 22 June.
However, the announcement appears to have been premature. The government later issued what it termed a “clarification”, saying that border restrictions could remain in force after the state of emergency ended and that “secure international movement” would begin on 1 July.
Although Spains two-week quarantine period for foreign visitors is set to end on 1 July, Maroto said it could be lifted earlier if conditions allowed.
“But people need to understand that the pandemic has hit Spain very hard,” she said. “As well as restoring tourist activity – which is what were working on right now – we also need to protect the health of our people.”
To date, Spain has reported 27,128 deaths from the virus and 240,326 confirmed infections.