Mallorca braces for influx of German tourists after removal from risk list | Spain

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German tourists hoping to visit Mallorca are being warned that coronavirus restrictions apply to everyone after the Spanish island was taken off Berlin’s high-risk list, leading to a surge of interest from holidaymakers.

Officials in Mallorca are now bracing for an influx of German tourists, as they queue up by the thousands to book Easter getaways in the Mediterranean, escaping a country that seems to be entering a third wave of Covid-19 and whose vaccination programme is off to a stuttering start.

The surge in interest comes days after Germany’s foreign ministry announced that Mallorca, a destination jokingly referred to among some Germans as the country’s 17th state, was no longer considered a high risk area along with other parts of Spain, Portugal and Denmark.

Germans reacted eagerly, even as Berlin warned against foreign travel. “The desire to spend the Easter holidays on the Mediterranean is significantly bigger than expected,” German tourism giant TUI said in a statement on Tuesday, as it said it would open its hotels on the island next weekend, ahead of schedule.

Eurowings said it was introducing 300 additional flights to cope with increased demand as holidaymakers reported prices that had rocketed threefold. Ryanair also got in on the action, announcing that it would offer 200 additional flights between Germany and Spain during Easter.

The news was met with frustration by some in the Balearic Islands, who questioned why the region was welcoming tourists as residents were still limited by stringent coronavirus restrictions.

Officials were quick to point out that tourists would not be exempt from the restrictions. “I see that many people are saying that tourists will be able to do things residents cannot. This is not true,” Marga Frontera, a health councillor for the regional government, said on Twitter. “Visitors to the Balearic islands are obliged to respect the same rules as residents.”

While many in the tourism-dependent region welcomed the revival of a key industry, some worried about risks German tourists could pose. Sergio Rodríguez of Spain’s far-right Vox party pointed to the recent rise of infections in Germany. Vaccination programmes in both countries have got off to a sluggish start.

“Our worry is that these are the people that are coming here,” he told the regional parliament. In the Balearics, the cumulative rate of infection in the region stands at 19 per 100,000 in the past seven days. In Germany, the figure is 83.7 per 100,000, up from 68 a week ago.

The regional government said additional monitoring would be put in place during the Easter holidays to ensure that everyone was following restrictions. “The same restrictions will apply, regardless of where people are from,” said Iago Negueruela, the regional official in charge of economy and tourism for the islands.

These restrictions include a curfew of 10pm and a closing time of 5pm for bars and restaurants. Starting Saturday, groups at bars and restaurants will be limited to four people while during the Easter period family gatherings will be limited to six people from the same family nucleus.

Additionally, Germans, like all international tourists from countries considered high risk, will have to show a negative PCR test upon landing in Spain.

In hotels, only guests from the same household will be able to share a room. After 5pm, tourists will be limited to dining in their hotels in groups of no more than four people. “We’re asking everyone to be responsible,” said Negueruela.

In Germany, news of a seeming stampede towards the Balearic island also set off alarms among the government, despite critics saying it was triggered by the foreign ministry’s apparent all-clear signal.

“The appeal is for people to refrain from every journey that is not absolutely necessary,” said Steffen Seibert, the government spokesman, on Monday. Maria Adebahr, spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, said: “The lack of a travel warning is no invitation to travel.”

Representatives of Germany’s domestic tourist industry reacted angrily to the news, saying that it was an “act of betrayal” that Germans could travel abroad, while holiday destinations at home, even meals or drinks out, remained illegal.

“It was like a punch in the gut for those of us in the hospitality industry, when the news about Mallorca reached us,” Olaf Stamsen, head of the German Hotel and Catering Association in Wilhelmshagen, south east of Berlin, told the news agency DPA. “We felt betrayed by the federal politicians,” he added. Hotels in Germany have to remain closed until at least 28 March.

But some regional governments have already announced they plan to introduce strict measures to control those returning. Claudia Schröder of the corona crisis committee for the government of Lower Saxony said people should be made aware of the risks and would face testing on their return.

“Nobody needs to fly abroad on holiday. I can only advise people to really think about it,” she said. “People won’t get sick at the resort itself, they will catch the virus on the way back and spread it when they get home.”

A government spokeswoman said: “It’s like we’d be willingly and open-eyed, bringing a real problem into the country.”

The apparent unease in some quarters over tourism comes as the EU puts the final touches on a Covid-19 pass aimed at restarting the bloc’s struggling tourism sector.

The certificate, which will be proposed on Wednesday, will combine information on vaccination, Covid-19 tests and recovery. The hope is that EU member states and the bloc’s parliament will agree on the proposal in June.

The exact rights, however, conferred by the certificate have yet to be hashed out, amid warnings by Belgium and Germany that the initiative risks discriminating against those who refuse or cannot get vaccinated.

“We have to be exceptionally careful because right now we are dealing with a tremendously iniquitous situation in the world … where the likelihood of you being offered or getting a vaccine is very much to do with the country you are living in,” Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said on Monday.

Agencies contributed to this report

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Mallorca braces for influx of German tourists after removal from risk list | Spain

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