Spain’s Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has reiterated her government’s commitment to seeing an internationally recognised Covid immunity passport or certification approved.
“Spain will support any tool that facilitates the recovery of safe travel and mobility,” Maroto told journalists on Thursday, adding that she hoped Spain will be seen as “a country that’s open to the world” and with safe “tourism protocols”.
The 47-year-old minister argued that it’s impossible to give dates for the reopening of Spanish tourism and avoided saying whether she thought some measures would be in place to allow travel to Spain by Easter in late March and early April.
The focus for her government remains keeping the pandemic under control and for Spain’s vaccination campaign to work at full speed, she concluded.
But Spanish officials are well aware that the consequences of another summer without tourism would be catastrophic for the economy.
The Economy Ministry has drafted a report which not only looks at the possibility of a Europe-wide vaccination card, but also the return of the safe travel corridors that were in place previously.
The Spanish government is working in collaboration with the OECD and the European Commission for these measures to be approved by summer, but so far the World Health Organisation and the EU have rejected the possibility of an immunity passport.
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Spain is at least not alone in Europe in terms of wanting an immunity document to be approved, with Cyprus, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Greece all in favour of the measure.
Other EU states such as France and Romania consider the prospect of an immunisation passport discriminatory at this point as the vaccine is voluntary in most nations and the inoculation campaigns are still in the early stages.
The speed at which Spain vaccinates its population will be the main determining factor in terms of whether the summer tourism season is saved, but it could be that Pedro Sánchez’s government has to defend their desperate stance against more cautious EU regulators.
“Reaching immunity is a key milestone to generate confidence to travel,” Tourism Minister Maroto concluded, pointing out that a vaccine certificate could put an end to the need for current restrictions such as quarantine and compulsory PCR tests.
Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism Fernando Valdés has said that while it was important that visitors are vaccinated to ensure safe travel, the prospect of imposing quarantine for tourists who haven't been inoculated is something his government “has never supported”.
Spanish tourism officials may at least find an ally in the UK, where immunity passports are currently being discussed as an option and where the rate of immunisation is higher than across the EU.
British tourists made up around 20 percent of foreign visitors to Spain in pre-pandemic times (more than 18 million in 2019) so their contribution could be essential to the recovery of Spain’s devastated tourism sector.