Angry with U.K. | Spain Faces Further Loss of German Tourism
MADRID: Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who responded angrily to the U.K. ratcheting up its travel ban to Spain to include popular holiday islands, now faces the prospect of losing German tourists in the busiest summer month as well.
In an interview with local broadcaster Telecinco, the Spanish leader called the U.K. decision “unbalanced” and said there were more case of the virus in Britain than in the Balearic and Canary Islands. On Tuesday, the U.K. defended its decision not to distinguish between the different regions of Spain.
To make matters worse, Germany on Tuesday recommended avoiding non-essential travel to the regions of Catalonia, Navarra and Aragon, citing concerns over higher coronavirus case numbers and local lockdowns. Germans are the main tourist group to Spain, behind Britons.
For Europe, the biggest question is whether it can save its summer for consumers and businesses alike. Countries like Spain and Italy not only suffered some of the highest deaths tolls from the virus but are paying the highest price economically. For governments, the need to keep people safe while trying to resume life as normal is a hard-balancing act.
The moves followed a steady rise in new coronavirus infections in Spain last week and led other European countries, including France and Belgium, to begin advising against trips to some parts of Spain. It’s also created friction.
“We respectfully disagree with the Spanish government,” Local Government Minister Simon Clarke told the BBC. “You do have to make decisions on a country-wide basis. There is going to be internal transfer within Spain.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already ordered everyone returning home from Spain to be quarantined for 14 days and his top diplomat told Sky News on Sunday “we cannot make apologies for doing so.”
There are signs Johnson might be re-thinking aspects of its policy even as he warns the country must be “vigilant” about a resurgence of Covid-19.
The European Union is set to keep its external borders shut to many countries including the U.S and is leaning toward shortening a list of 13 states — Canada, China, Japan and South Korea among them whose residents have the green light to visit the bloc, according to officials.
Before Monday’s announcement, the tourism industry had hoped the islands would be exempted from the U.K.’s quarantine requirement. Instead, the official advice was extended to include the popular summer destinations.
That will be of little comfort to Spain. The U.K. is critical to its economy many of its pensioners have retired along the country’s Mediterranean coast, and British sun-seekers account for 20% of Spain’s overall visitors.
New infections in Spain rose last week to the highest since early May, but the government’s top epidemiologist explained the situation is very different now because the number of intensive care patients and deaths isn’t increasing, signaling that cases are being detected early on as medical testing has improved.