Spain expects 45 mln tourists in 2021 amid safe COVID-19 travel rules

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Spain expects to welcome around 45 million foreign tourists in 2021, just over half the number who came in 2019 before the pandemic struck, the tourism minister said Wednesday.

“It’s a cautious forecast but it’s realistic, that we can recover half of the international tourists that we had in 2019,” Reyes Maroto told reporters.

The world’s second most popular destination after France, Spain registered 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019, official figures show.

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“Spain is ready to reopen to the world very soon,” she said on launching the summer promotional campaign, which is primarily aimed at European visitors, notably those from the UK who have long been Spain’s most important source of tourists.

The campaign also targets French and German tourists.

“We are developing tools that will allow for safe travel,” she said, in a nod to the European vaccination passport which should be operational in June.

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With the European Union expected to update its restrictions on non-essential visits from outside the bloc on May 20, it would likely mean Spain would be able to once again welcome British tourists, she said.

Britain, which long been the biggest source of tourists for Spain, will allow international travel to resume from May 17 after months of banning most trips abroad.

But Spain is currently not included in its so-called “green list” of safe destinations, meaning Britons returning from a trip to Spain would have to self-isolate on arrival for 10 days and take two COVID-19 tests.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said Madrid was in talk with British authorities to put certain regions of Spain such as the Canary Islands and Valencia where the infection rate is as low as it is in Britain on its “green list.”

“If the UK looks at the regional lens they will discover that there are many safe places in Spain to travel to,” she said during an interview with the BBC.

In 2020, the number of foreign tourists visiting Spain collapsed by 77 percent compared with a year earlier, falling below 19 million visitors as pandemic restrictions put the brakes on leisure travel.

The decline ended a seven-year run of annual records, dealing a heavy blow to a country whose economy is deeply dependent on tourism.

In a normal year, the tourism industry accounts for 12 percent of Spain’s economic output and 13 percent of employment.

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