Spain has urged foreign holidaymakers to return in July as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns eased, though tourism businesses were sceptical about salvaging the summer season.
The world’s second-most visited nation closed its doors and beaches in March to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, later imposing a two-week quarantine on overseas visitors. But that requirement will be lifted from July 1, a government statement said on Monday.
“The worst is behind us,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya tweeted with emojis of a bikini, sunglasses and a suitcase.
“In July we will gradually open Spain to international tourists, lift the quarantine, ensure the highest standards of health safety. We look forward 2 welcoming you!”
Introduced on May 15 with little warning, the quarantine caused confusion in the tourism industry and tension with neighbouring France.
By lifting it, the government hopes to make up for the earlier communication breakdown and be in a stronger position to attract foreign tourists during Europe’s summer months.
Spain normally draws 80 million people a year, with tourism accounting for over 12 percent of gross domestic product and an even bigger share of jobs, so the summer season is crucial to possibilities of mitigating a looming recession.
Bars and restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona were allowed to open outside spaces at half capacity from Monday, but many stayed closed as owners weighed the value of catering to just a few.
Some of those who did open, after gloved and masked staff cleaned terraces and placed tables far apart, were pessimistic.
“It’s complicated, we are not going to be able to save the tourist season, unless [enough] foreigners come,” Alfonso Gomez, a restaurant owner in Barcelona, told Reuters News Agency.
Passersby enjoying new-found freedoms were more upbeat. “It’s nice just to feel a bit of normality again after so long,” said Rosie, a writer and Barcelona resident.
While most students in Spain still need to study online, some schools reopened in the northern Basque region.
Spain has recorded 26,834 coronavirus deaths and 235,400 cases, but daily fatalities have dropped to fewer than 100 for the last week.