The Covid pandemic has affected our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined at the start of this year. After several months of lockdown, our world started to open up again – albeit gradually – on June 21st, with the introduction of the “new normality”.
The impact on the tourism industry, the third largest contributor to the Spanish economy, has naturally been of great concern to the Spanish authorities. With travel proving inherently risky during the pandemic, expectations are of a record low tourist season. Furthermore, other countries – not least the UK – are quarantining travellers from Spain for up to 14 days. As a result, many people have decided their only option is to stay at home.
Before the UK opted to quarantine anyone landing from Spain, British tourists were already arriving in reduced numbers. Many were visiting family here, after a lengthy separation caused by the lockdown closing the borders. Those who were already visiting Spain when the UK government announced the new quarantine, with just a few hours’ notice, were caught by surprise.
They returned home, some earlier than planned, wondering if their 14 days self-isolation would be funded by their employers or from their own pocket. One thing was clear: the British government would not be paying for its own policy decision.
The quarantine resulted in many Brits cancelling their travel plans, whether they were heading from the UK to Spain or vice versa. Those of us wanting to fly off to see family were dealt another cruel Covid blow.
Many UK visitors to Spain were, and still are, comfortable with the stricter safety measures here and happy to abide by them. Many told their hosts they felt safer here than in the UK, where there was often a lack of social distancing and people wandering about without facial coverings.
While the rise in new cases in Spain is worrying, the number of daily deaths is relatively low when compared to the UK. The new measures introduced by the Spanish government should help control the spread of the virus.
However, the closure of music bars and nightclubs, the 1am closure of normal bars and restaurants and the ban on smoking outside hardly improve Spain’s prospects as a holiday destination.
Whether you’ve been put off travelling by the virus itself, or the anti-virus measures, the result is the same. More time away from family and friends, more personal sacrifices and more risk for the tourist and hospitality industries.
Under government guidelines, most hospitality businesses have made a massive effort to reopen. Barmen and waiters have added cleaning to their list of skills and are wearing masks in the few places we don’t have to.
In many destinations, such as my hometown, it’s predominantly the tourists making the most of the bars, while many locals are reluctant to join them because of the perceived risk of infection. Many of us are waiting until the tourists have left before we venture too far afield, regardless of whether those visitors hail from Madrid or Manchester.
For the sake of the local economy, I hope we’ll soon overcome any lingering nervousness and start frequenting our local bars and restaurants. That, at least, is a decision we can make on our own. The decision to travel, especially to another country, may be taken out of our hands for some time to come.
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain