Spain struggles to balance two conflicting goals as it prepares for the upcoming Easter break. On the one hand, he wants to restrict national travel in order to improve the coronavirus situation by the summer – a moment which will be key to revive the productive fabric of the country. In order to reduce contagion, all regions of Spain will be subject to a peripheral lockdown during the Easter holidays, which means that no one can enter or leave without a justified reason, such as for work. But although there are restrictions on domestic tourism, the Spanish government has not imposed any such rules on visitors from Europe. The move, combined with the fact that Germany has removed parts of Spain – including the Balearic Islands – from its list of areas at risk for coronavirus, has made Spain a popular destination for Easter week. In other words, Spain is open to German tourists, but not to Spanish tourists.
Ilse and Klaus are among the many Germans who have chosen to spend the Easter holidays in the Spanish Balearic Islands. They started their journey early and arrived in Mallorca earlier this week. They will spend a few days in a tourist apartment by the sea on Palma beach. âWe came because we found a good deal of accommodation, much cheaper than other opportunities,â said Ilse.
With the approach of Easter, the Germans are torn between wanting to have a drink in a sunny sidewalk cafÃ© – bars and restaurants in Germany have been closed for four and a half months – and heeded the warnings of the health authorities who advise against all non-travel essential. Many of them have gone the former, although experts continue to warn it will lead to an increase in coronavirus cases as data shows the country is entering a third wave of the pandemic.
But many Germans seem determined to spend their vacations in the Balearic Islands, which has resulted in increased demand. In response, large travel groups have increased hotel capacity and the number of flights to the archipelago. “We have experienced a boom in bookings for the Easter holidays,” said Thomas DaubenbÃ¼chel, spokesperson for travel company Alltours. March 13 – a day after Germany removed the Balearic Islands and several other regions from its risk list, meaning visitors do not need to be quarantined upon their return – Alltours arranged 20 charter flights from DÃ¼sseldorf. Two days later, the flights were full.
We don’t want to waste all of our effort on five days and lose the summer season. it would be catastrophic
JosÃ© Luis Zoreda, vice-president of the tourism lobby Exceltur
Anglo-German travel giant TUI saw similar demand when it started offering flights and accommodation in the Balearic Islands on Sunday. “The first available dates are all taken,” said a spokesperson for TUI, who added that the company was preparing to open more hotels in AlcÃºdia in Mallorca. Over the next few weeks, TUI plans to offer more than 300 round-trip flights to the Balearic Islands. And it’s not the only airline that jumped at the chance. Ryanair has added 200 flights between Germany and Spain during the Easter holidays and Eurowings, Lufthansa’s low-cost carrier, has scheduled another 300 routes.
But while German visitors will be able to enjoy a vacation in Mallorca, not a single Spanish tourist enjoys the same privilege. This paradox started a few months ago and has continued due to the diplomatic issues surrounding the closing of the Spanish border. âWe cannot close our country to the EU. The control measures in place at airports are working, âHealth Minister Carolina Darios said in an interview with EL PAÃS last week.
Visitors to Spain, for example, must provide a negative PCR test if arriving by boat or plane – the measure does not apply to land crossings. But the Spaniards are unhappy that that same PCR test does not allow a mainland resident to travel to the Balearics to visit family or just for a vacation. Residents of the archipelago also cannot travel to the mainland, except for a justified reason. At the same time, Spaniards see tourists from all over Europe roaming the streets freely, even if they come from a place with a much higher coronavirus incidence rate.
The tourism sector remains cautious
The Spanish tourism sector also has reservations about the Easter holidays. âWe don’t want to waste all of our effort over five days and lose the summer season. It would be disastrous, âsaid JosÃ© Luis Zoreda, vice-president of the tourism lobby Exceltur. In addition, Zoreda does not believe that the increase in bookings from Germany will have a significant impact on the industry. âIt’s gone from almost zero, but it won’t be significant and it won’t save Easter,â he says. Indeed, many hoteliers do not plan to reopen for the next vacation, at least not on a large scale. âWe’ll see something at Easter, but I have more hope for May and June,â said Gabriel Escarrer, Managing Director of MeliÃ¡ Hotels International last week.
French visitors are also unlikely to save the Easter holidays, which traditionally mark the start of the countdown to Spain’s peak tourist season. On Friday, a third of France was placed under limited one-month confinement, which could be extended. If this is a less strict lockdown than the previous two, it means that residents of several regions, including Paris, are prohibited from traveling to another part of the country. They can however travel outside of France, for example in Spain.
Despite this, it is unlikely that many French tourists will visit Spain during this time. Traditionally, fewer trips are made at Easter than other holiday periods, as only Easter Monday is a public holiday in France. That said, airlines like Air France’s low-cost carrier Transavia are planning to open new routes to Spain, but only after the end of April.
Canaries resist British tourists in May
In the Canaries, the peak winter season has been lost due to coronavirus restrictions, and the sector has ruled out any hope of a rebound at Easter. The archipelago remains on Germany’s list of high-risk areas, while residents of the United Kingdom – one of the region’s largest source countries for tourism – face travel restrictions until May 17. In addition, due to the perimeter closures, the Canary Islands the net of Spanish tourists has also stopped.