The holiday plans for millions of people could be put on hold after suggestions Spain might not be ready for a normal tourism season until the end of summer.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has suggested the country would be “progressively better prepared” to welcome foreign tourists once 70% of its citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19 – a goal he estimates won’t be reached until much later this year.
He said that only mass vaccination will open the way to normality that we want,” he said on Wednesday, during a speech at the World Tourism Organization conference in Madrid.
“The government is working to vaccinate at the highest possible rate… to reach the end of the summer with 70%, which will allow Spain to be progressively better prepared to receive international tourists.”
Adding assurances, he said Spain was the “ninth country in the world” for vaccination rates, “and one of the first in Europe”.
This speech has since been interpreted by some as meaning a blanket ban on tourism until 70% of Spaniards are vaccinated – but ministers have clarified the position.
“Our priority in 2021 is to reactivate tourism activity and resume safe mobility globally as soon as possible,” said tourism minister Reyes Maroto on Friday.
“We are working to adopt a common framework of predictable action to give confidence to tourists and we hope that at the end of spring, and especially in summer, that international travel will resume and that people will choose Spain.”
Juan González-Barba, the secretary of state for the EU, added that hope was “much greater” now for the summer season, saying he hoped travel would “begin to recover, if not be comparable, to the season before the pandemic”.
He did, however, highlight that COVID-19 “can surprise at any time” – although added that vaccination rates would continue to increase, especially after Easter.
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