Everything should have been so beautiful. With the end of the Corona emergency in June, Spain wanted to start the “new normal”. The revitalization of tourism was crucial in this. Everything is different now.

Not only were tens of thousands of British holidaymakers caught cold on Spain’s sunny beaches, including Transport Minister Grant Shapps with his family, but above all the already ailing tourism industry in Europe’s most important holiday destination.

“The quarantine has done the rest of the tourism sector in Spain, which is preparing for a catastrophic summer,” headlined the newspaper “El País”, which is otherwise not prone to alarmism. Norway and Belgium have also already issued quarantine rules for those returning to Spain, and France warns against traveling to Catalonia and other regions. Should Germany also follow the British example, the catastrophe would be complete. “La Vanguardia” from Barcelona wrote of a British “death knell” for the holiday season.

280 local corona outbreaks in Spain
The industry had hoped to get away with at least one black eye after the end of the Corona emergency on June 21 and the opening of the borders for Europeans. Hardly anything will come of this now. “We are almost in August and the season is as good as lost,” said the President of the Federation of Catalan Travel Agencies, Martín Sarrate, on Spanish television. That is a “club blow” for the whole industry.

According to official information, there are currently around 280 local corona outbreaks. Catalonia with the tourist metropolis of Barcelona and the area around Lleida as well as the Aragón region are particularly affected . Catalonia’s separatist regional president Quim Torra even no longer completely ruled out exit restrictions for his region.

A nightmare for the people who had to stay in their houses for 14 weeks from mid-March. In Catalonia, as in the rest of the country, there is a lack of followers in particular to be able to identify and break infection chains quickly. Spain only has a little more than 3500 such employees, but 8500 would be needed, as the scientist Álex Arenas ” El País ” said.

Fear of infection in the vacation plane

Many hotels that had to close during the emergency have not yet reopened. Those who dared now report a wave of cancellations from abroad and domestically. The Spaniards have been to themselves on the beaches because many British, Germans, French and other Northern Europeans no longer dare to leave their own country because of the pandemic.

The fear of infection in full holiday fliers, the need to wear a mask in almost all of Spain or the closure of nightlife in Catalonia are uninviting. Images of beer-loving parties by Germans and British on Mallorca, where all precautionary rules went overboard, caused dismay.

A collapse of the tourism industry could drag the whole country down with it. Last year 84 million foreigners visited Spain. According to the national statistics office, the sector contributes more than twelve percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).

According to calculations by the newspaper “La Vanguardia”, income from tourism, including indirect effects, even amounted to more than 160 billion euros, which would correspond to 18 percent of GDP. More than three million people find work and income in the industry. “The tourist disaster can reach colossal proportions,” the newspaper warned.

Contagion rate among the UK

The government in Madrid is trying to save what can be saved. Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya negotiated with her British colleague Dominic Raab about exempting at least the Balearic and Canary Islands from the quarantine requirement. Corona is “under control” on both island groups and the infection rate is “far below” that of Great Britain.

“Spain is a safe country,” stressed the minister. But Madrid will not be able to avoid using a significant part of the recently decided EU billion aid to rescue the tourism industry. With that, she could survive in the intensive care unit until there is a vaccination and, with a bit of luck, start again next year. 

Emily Wong

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