Spain jumpstarted its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. It also reopened its ports to cruise ship stops.
The move opened borders for the first vacationers from the United States and other countries outside of the European Union that had been banned since March last year, when the pandemic hit global travel.
Matthew Eisenberg, a 22-year-old student, stepped out of Madrid airport’s arrivals lounge in excitment, ready to enjoy the Spanish capital along with two more American friends.
“We came to Spain the first day we could, because we are very excited to travel here,” Eisenberg said, showing a certificate for the two Moderna vaccine jabs he received in February and March.
But Spain is still banning nonessential travelers from Brazil, India and South Africa, where virus variants have been been a major source of concern.
Visitors need proof they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before the trip or that they overcame a COVID-19 infection in the past six months. The certificates can be in Spanish, English, French or German – or their equivalent translations in Spanish, the government order said.
The vaccines accepted are those approved by Europe’s drug regulator – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – as well as two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
The same documents will be valid for visitors from the European Union until the bloc fully rolls out its “Digital Green Certificate” as expected on July 1. Spain on Monday joined seven other EU countries already implementing the scheme.
Alfredo Gonzalez, an official in charge of digital health and innovation at Spain’s Health Ministry, said the certificate is not a passport but a document that eases mobility across Europe.
“Without the certificate, travel will be possible, but the entry in every country will be slower and controls such as quarantines could apply,” said Gonzalez, adding that all airports had established fast-track channels with technology able to confirm the digital certificates issued by other EU countries.
Beginning Monday, non-vaccinated travelers from the EU’s 27 countries could also enter Spain with the negative results of recent coronavirus antigen tests, which are cheaper and faster than PCR tests.
The Spanish government hopes to welcome 14.5 million to 15.5 million visitors between July and September. That’s about 40% of the tourists in the same period of 2019 but twice as many as last summer, when only EU visitors could enter Spain.
Tourism is a major industry that in 2019 accounted for over 12% of Spain’s GDP.
In a setback, many British tourists who love Southern Europe’s beaches aren’t expected in large numbers yet because they must quarantine upon their return to the U.K.
Still, Manchester resident Randolph Sweeting said his holiday on the Spanish island of Mallorca was worth the mandatory self-isolation when he gets home.
“I was here twice last year and when I went home I had to quarantine on my own for two weeks. So it’s not a problem for me, I’ve done it before,” the 68-year-old said at the Palma de Mallorca airport.
Belen Sanmartin, director of the Melia Calvia Beach Hotel in Mallorca, said that the U.K. government’s decision to keep Spain in its list of higher-risk territories was hard to understand in the Balearic Islands, where the infection rate is lower than in Britain.
“It has been a big disappointment, because we were ready to receive visitors from the British market,” Sanmartin said, adding that bookings in her hotel were slowly picking up, thanks to Spanish mainlanders and German and French tourists.
In another move to boost tourism, Spanish ports opened to cruise ships on Monday, nearly 15 months after they were banned.
After peaking in late January at nearly 900 new cases per 100,000 residents in 14 days, Spain’s coronavirus contagion indicator has dropped to 115 per 100,000. Still, its descent has slowed down in the past days as new infections spread among unvaccinated groups.
Spain has counted over 80,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic.
Rash of mass shootings stirs U.S. fears heading into summer
SLS: First view of Nasa’s assembled ‘megarocket’
Funeral service held for London, Ont., family killed in vehicle attack
Biden to name Pulse Nightclub a national memorial
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned
Middle East7 days ago
Israel arrests Palestinian activist, as reporter recovers from forceful detainment
North America3 days ago
Court documents portray London attack suspect as prone to anger, medicated for mental illness
North America3 days ago
What we know about Nathaniel Veltman, the man charged in the London, Ont. attack
Health6 days ago
WHO can’t force China to give more information on COVID-19 origins: Official
Health6 days ago
FDA approves much-debated Alzheimer’s drug panned by experts
Europe7 days ago
Dozens of tourists fined after police seize 200 pounds of sand and shells taken from Italian beaches
Europe6 days ago
Toddler whose body washed up in Norway drowned in Channel last year: police
U.S6 days ago
Harris says leaders need to restore hope in Guatemala