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Letter from Spain… A Summer Marked By Uncertainty And Hope


By Elena Gallego

The tourism sector has gone from being Spain's greatest strength, to becoming its greatest weakness. The industry has been one of most affected by the coronavirus crisis. As Poul Thomsen, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) department for Europe, has pointed out: "Spain will be hit hard for several reasons (...) Beyond the immediate impact, dependence on tourism in Spain is a special vulnerability”.

For this reason, the Mediterranean countries are fighting an arduous battle to attract tourists, although our country has been badly hurt in the first instance. The UK Government has announced its ‘traffic light’ list of countries recommended for travel and Spain has been relegated to the amber list - it can be visited with restrictions. Only 12 countries were included on the green list for the time being, including Portugal, Israel and Gibraltar. Thus, the British who want to go for leisure to any of the places on the amber list will have to comply the mandatory quarantine on the return trip and have COVID tests. And, in the meantime, Spain loses €80 million a day due to the British blow to tourism.

For the Spanish Government, the upward or downward trend is marked by vaccination. This is the tool that the sector relies on to reactivate the travel industry safely, which they hope will take them up to at least 50% of the arrivals that they received in 2019.

Despite everything, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Reservations, for the moment, give some hope. According to data from the online travel agency, sales have shot up 68% for flight packages plus hotel. At the same time, there is another key element for the summer season: the COVID passport, which is currently being finalised at EU level. This will be a document that will inform the authorities if you are vaccinated, have had the disease or have had a negative COVID-test. It is estimated that it will be ready in June, although for now the negotiations are proving to be arduous.

And what will happen to national tourism?

Clearly, it will not be able to compensate for the losses that will be suffered due to the fall in foreign tourism, and it is that the internal economic situation must be taken into account. In March of this year there were 3.95 million unemployed and almost 750,000 workers under the temporary employment regulation file regime (ERTE), according to government figures. For many, this is a difficult situation to enjoy a vacation.

Meanwhile, Spaniards have enjoyed the relaxation of rules, following the suppression of the state of alarm since 9 May , although not all regional governments agree with this solution and there are already some of them that have put it in the hands of the courts. Either way, many appreciate the need to be extremely cautious for the foreseeable future so that the situation does not deteriorate again. Spaniards do not want to see coronavirus re-establish itself as the main actor in this drama series that we have been suffering for more than a year.