The Corona hotspot Spain is preparing to welcome millions of vacationers again. Tourism is vital to economic recovery. The first 6000 guests from Germany are to fly to Mallorca next week for a pilot project.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has extended the state of alarm in the context of the corona crisis again until June 21. At the same time, the Spaniards are preparing for the reopening of the country for mass tourism on July 1st with a lot of optimism but also with a queasy stomach. Will the holidaymakers dare to go to the beaches and tapas bars again after the horror news from the Corona hotspot? This should now be rehearsed in a “pilot project”.

Starting next Monday, up to 6,000 holidaymakers from Germany will initially be allowed to come to Mallorca and two other of the popular Balearic Islands. In Germany, the situation in the fight against Covid-19 is as positive as in the Balearic Islands, it was said to justify. New figures make us optimistic. There has been no corona death in the Balearic Islands in the past eight days, on Monday only eight new infections were registered within 24 hours.

Initially no individual tourism

Germany was chosen because the epidemiological situation there is very good and similar to that in the Balearic Islands, it said. A two-week quarantine, as is currently required for all those entering Spain from abroad , should not exist in the Balearic Islands. According to this information, individual tourism is not initially planned.

The pilot project was planned by the Balearic Government together with four local hotel chains, reported the “Mallorca Zeitung”. On the German side, the tour operators Tui, DER Touristik and Schauinsland Reisen are involved. In Mallorca, the German vacationers should be accommodated in the Platja de Palma and in the Bay of Alcúdia. The newspaper reported that there had been protests among locals about the pilot project. Parts of the population living there fear for their health.

Euphoria initially only online

“For a German, a trip here to Mallorca is like a trip in your own country, you don’t see it as particularly risky,” said the head of the “Palma Beach” association, Juan Miguel Ferrer. His father Antonio was the first to serve draft beer in the legendary “Köpi” on Playa de Palma at the end of the 1970s and is therefore considered the founder of “Bierstraße” and “Ballermann”.

His son was quoted these days by the specialist portal “Hosteltur” with the statement that he was already seeing the first “euphoria” arise online. However, a considerable increase in bookings was recorded for September in particular, while uncertainty still prevailed for July and August. But Ferrer’s motto is: “No matter how small the season, we take what we can take with us.”

In any case, the preparations are in full swing, not only on Mallorca, where one in five is employed in tourism. All over the country, the holiday complexes are being brought up to scratch, screwing, painting and cleaning is taking place everywhere. After the country, which was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, remained in a state of shock for months, nobody can now afford to worry or hesitate. After all, tourism contributes more than 12 percent to national income, and in no other European country is the proportion higher.

“I lost about 30,000 euros due to the two-month compulsory closure,” says Adrián Caricart, owner of the “La Vella Lleteria” wine bar in the coastal town of Premia de Mar near Barcelona. “Even if the holidaymakers come back, that can’t be made up, but at least we can survive then,” he says, representing the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who live from tourism. Many of them earn the money in the main season with which they have to make ends meet for the rest of the year.

But Adrián is also a little uncomfortable when he looks from his bar at the tables of the restaurants and cafés on the small square next to the church: The locals sit happily and loudly among themselves in the early evening, hardly anyone keeps their distance and many have dangling the mask under the chin. At “Malle”, in Madrid and in Lloret it is currently no different than in Premia. “It will be difficult to control,” says Adrián, running the palm of his hand worriedly over the short haircut.

Video surveillance on the beach

Keyword control: Hardly a day goes by without the government and associations not setting up new rules and regulations. The tourist magnet Barcelona wants to monitor the beaches by video in the future. An app is to warn of overcrowding on the water, many beaches set up boundaries, corridors and control points for access. For the time being, however, there will be no delimitations and no special measures on the total of 369 beaches in Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands.

In the sun with a safe distance: first vacationers on the Platja de Palma
In the sun with a safe distance: first vacationers on the Platja de Palma

How can one guarantee the safety of bathers ?, the Balearic Tourism Minister Iago Negueruela was asked by the regional newspaper “ARA Balears”. “The number of tourists who will come will be very small,” said the socialist politician. One is used to much higher numbers. As a matter of fact. Most of the 16.5 million holidaymakers who visited the islands in 2019 will most certainly not return this year – yet.

Ferrer sees it similarly: “I can’t imagine any partition walls or visitor limits on the beaches here”. On the Platja de Palma you have at least 6.5 kilometers of sand. “There’s a lot of room for social distancing”. As in many other places, lifeguards and beach policemen will also make sure that the regulations are observed, primarily the safety distance of two meters between towels and parasols.

And protective mask wherever this distance cannot be maintained. The central government announced at the weekend that wearing masks will remain mandatory even after the emergency has ended on June 20.

27,000 corona deaths in Spain alone

In Spain, however, despite all economic hardship, “safety first” applies. “We will guarantee that the tourists will not take any risks and that they will not pose any risks to us,” Sánchez said recently. There is “no conflict between health and business”. “Spanish tourism will now have two seals of approval: environmental sustainability and sanitary safety,” he said.

But many Spaniards no longer believe the government. The high number of more than 27,000 deaths made many people aware of the weaknesses of their own country. And the long and particularly drastic restriction of rights has disturbed the country. “I’m not the same as I was before the crisis,” says Adrián. Somehow he feels like he has been raped. Anyone who is currently trying to defend the Spanish anti-corona policy is in a difficult position.

Emily Wong

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