Life & Leisure

Spain’s beaches get social-distancing makeover as flights resume

By Ariana Grau

Altea, Spain, Jun 21 (efe-epa).- Spain’s beaches are getting a social-distancing makeover just as international flights to one of the world’s biggest tourism hotspots resume following the lifting of the coronavirus state of alarm almost 100 days after it was first enforced.

Around 100 international flights were scheduled to touch down in Spanish airports on Sunday, the largest being in Madrid and Barcelona, but another 250 domestic flights are also expected to make trips as inter-regional travel restrictions come to an end.

While the country gears up to wring out whatever remains of the summer season, authorities in coastal areas are preparing beaches for the first foreign footfall in over three months.

Drones, sensors, cameras, mobile apps and beach supervisors are being harnessed to ensure social-distancing protocols and hygiene measures are heeded as beachgoers enjoy the sun and the cooling sea.

Spain was the second-most visited country last year, and many choose it as a holiday destination for its renowned beaches.

Altea, in the province of Alicante in eastern Spain, is a popular hotspot for locals and foreigners alike, especially those coming from the United Kingdom, Belgium and France during the summer break.

Although not as built-up as Benidorm, just 10-kilometers down the coast, Altea is “anxiously awaiting” the arrival of tourism, the city’s mayor Jaume Llinares tells Efe.

“It’s one of the most important motors of the region.”

It is also one of the most important economic engines nationally, accounting for some 12.7 percent of annual GDP and providing jobs for more than two million people.

Llinares says local authorities were following government protocol to ensure a safe environment for visitors.

While other beach resorts such as Benidorm have taken to literally drawing social-distancing lines in the sand, in Altea authorities have opted to employ beach supervisors who, along with the lifeguards keeping watch, will ensure that protocol is upheld, the city’s infrastructure councillor Diego Zaragozí explains.

The supervisors will be employed on a seasonal contract this summer and will collaborate with police “in the case of a serious or notable incident,” he adds.

Altea is just one of around 3,500 Spanish beaches dotted along 8,000 kilometers of coastline.

On the Mediterranean coast, one of the choice destinations for foreign tourists, other resort areas like Lloret del Mar, Fuengiola and Málaga have opted for a more hi-tech approach to monitoring beachgoers with the use of live-sensors feeding back accurate information on crowd-sizes.

Police in Cullera, near Valencia, and on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, are using drones to keep an eye on the situations.

Authorities in the city of Alicante will use a mobile phone app that will relay beach use and crowd size through a color-coded system from green to red, which means an area is busy.

Spain’s foreign minister Arancha González Laya on Saturday announced that visitors from the UK and the Schengen Area would not have to observe a period of quarantine when arriving in the country.

The lifting of the draconian lockdown enforced by the government in mid-March heralded in what politicians have called the “new normal.”

Spaniards are now free to travel across the country but obligatory mask use in public spaces where social-distancing is not possible will remain in place until a vaccine for Covid-19 is found.EFE-EPA

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