Madrid Desk, Jun 15 (efe-epa).- Spain kicked off a safe corridor tourism scheme with the arrival of the first batch of German tourists in Mallorca on Monday a week before the rest of the Iberian nation is due to open up its borders.
The flight operated by Anglo-German group TUI touched down in Palma de Mallorca with 189 passengers onboard, roughly 170 of them tourists who departed from Düsseldorf, one of the cities chosen for the pilot scheme. Some 20 journalists were also on the flight.
The move is part of the Spanish government’s plan to salvage what is left of the summer tourist season, a period of the year in which 70 percent of annual tourist spending occurs, following three months of a nationwide lockdown.
Almost 11,000 German tourists are set to arrive in the Spanish Balearic islands of Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca between now and the end of June from selected airports of Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover and Strasbourg.
The Mediterranean region was spared the worst of Spain’s Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of over 27,000 people in the nation.
Being one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, Spain had initially sought to open its EU borders on 1 July but the government of Pedro Sánchez announced over the weekend that the new measures would come into effect on 21 June, when Spain lifts its state of alarm.
This will include travellers from the United Kingdom who, along with the Germans, comprise a large chunk of Spain’s international visitors in a sector that last year made up 12 percent of the Spanish economy.
However, with the mandatory quarantine measures still in place in the UK, the arrival of British tourists to Spanish resorts is not likely to occur until later in the summer.
International travellers will have to wait until 1 July to visit Spain, the same day Madrid and Lisbon plan to open the shared border on the Iberian Peninsula.
There is a mixed approach to travel across the EU with different countries adopting diverse measures despite the European Commission calling for a reopening of the bloc’s internal borders by 15 June.
Spain’s eastern neighbour France opened its borders on Monday, a move mirrored by Germany, Belgium and Croatia. Switzerland, which is not an EU country but is landlocked by member states, also opened its borders.
President Emmanuel Macron said cafes, bars and restaurants could reopen across the entire country, including the capital Paris, which has lingered in an extended lockdown beyond much of the rest of the country.
French travel restrictions have also been eased for all countries within the Schengen Area except for travellers from Spain, who would have to undergo a 14 day quarantine upon arrival to France.
Germany, which has been easing restrictions since early May, lifted its travel ban on Monday with Foreign minister Heiko Maas warning Germans should be sensible and cautious when deciding where to travel for summer holidays.
Germany has advised against traveling to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Spain for the moment.
Maas said full travel restrictions within the EU would be lifted by 15 June if confinement measures in the affected countries had been eased by then.
Greece opened up to international travel on Monday with the first flights arriving at Athens and Thessaloniki airports. Tourism props up around 25 percent of the country’s economy.
Some 20 flights were scheduled to arrive in the capital as part of its gradual reopening, which, like Spain, was brought forward from 1 July.
“Come to Greece and bring your friends,” Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a press conference on the popular island resort of Santorini over the weekend. “I’m not aiming for us to become the number one in tourism, but I do want to be the safest destination.” EFE-EPA