Spain urged foreign holidaymakers on Monday to return from July as one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns eased, but 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, but it has seen out the worst and plans to lift a 14-day quarantine requirement on overseas arrivals within weeks.
“It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July,” Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told radio station Onda Cero.
Spain normally draws 80 million people a year with tourism accounting for over 12% of gross domestic product and an even bigger share of jobs, so the summer season is crucial to possibilities of mitigating a looming recession.
Though allowed to open outside spaces at half capacity from Monday, many bars and restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona 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,” said Alfonso Gomez, a restaurant owner in Barcelona.
Another restaurant owner, Celestino Pereda, said businesses in the tourism industry “can’t survive” because so much depends on the summer.
On the streets of Barcelona and Madrid, which have been hit worse than most other areas, 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.
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