Life & Leisure

Tourism debate reaches fever-pitch in Spain ahead of Easter break

(Update 1: Adds new detail on German PCR requirements)

Madrid, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- With some of the most relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in Europe, Spain is awaiting a modest influx of foreign tourists for the Easter holidays but the topic has sparked debate in a country where locals are not permitted to travel outside their regions.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism propped up around 12.5% of Spain’s annual GDP and in 2019 it was the second-most visited country in the world.

The tentative trickle of foreign visitors could therefore come as a reprieve for the country’s struggling hospitality and hotel industries.

Germany’s decision to remove popular tourist hubs like Mallorca from its list of high-risk destinations prompted a swell of hotel and plane bookings despite official recommendations against all non-essential travel. The German government has announced it would require all passengers arriving in the country to present a negative PCR for antigen test from Tuesday.

The lax Covid-19 restrictions in the Spanish capital Madrid have drawn in tourists looking to escape strict measures in neighboring France. Affordable flights and free PCR tests in France — which are required to enter Spain — make the process easy and quick.

Images of young French tourists enjoying a night out in the city have been circulating in local media and have fueled a debate that has reached fever-pitch with regional elections on the horizon.

A left-wing candidate in those elections accused the incumbent regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, a conservative, of converting Madrid into the “after-party” of Europe.

However, Ayuso and her ally in City Hall, Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, denied the existence of “drunk tourism” and said visitors were coming for the culture.

“We are the only major European capital that, right now, has opened up its culture, that is undeniably a point of attraction,” Almeida said.

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