‘Germans are coming back’: Spaniards sceptical over return of tourists

Germans will be allowed to travel to the popular Spanish island of Mallorca at Easter, which many hope will revive the flailing tourism industry. Yet many in Spain are asking if allowing an influx of tourists is worth it.

'Germans are coming back': Spaniards sceptical over return of tourists
German tourists in Mallorca in June 2020. Photo: DPA

After the travel warning for Mallorca was lifted, many people in Germany are already packing their bags for the popular destination, in real life or at least in their thoughts. 

Bookings are increasing rapidly on the coronavirus-plagued Spanish vacation island, and rekindling a positive outlook for tourism after months of doom-and-gloom. 

“This is fantastic news,” the German-language “Mallorca Zeitung” quoted tourist guide Adán André Alomar. Without a return of tourists, “the island would die of hunger,” Alomar continued. 

“The best news ever,” also cheered Ballermann restaurateur Juan Miguel Ferrer, pointing out that he saw “the light at the end of the tunnel”. 

As of Sunday, Mallorca and the entire Balearic archipelago were no longer considered to be risk areas for travel due to a vastly improved epidemiological situation there.

READ ALSO: Germany set to lift travel warning for parts of Spain and Portugal

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) confirmed on its website on Friday that the regions no longer had enough infections to be considered risk areas.

After the Berlin decision, Ferrer, who heads the interest group “Palma Beach”, and his fellow campaigners – hoteliers, restaurant owners and other entrepreneurs – immediately announced the reopening of at least 15 hotels for a total of 4,000 visitors for the Easter weekend starting April 2nd. 

The respected analyst Miguel Otero tweeted, “The Germans are coming back!”

A win-win situation? Not so fast

Sun, beach and sangria for some, economic stimulus and ringing cash registers for others – a typical win-win situation? That’s not necessarily the case. 

Countless people in Spain are fuming. Until April 9th, according to a recent decision by the central government, locals are only allowed to leave their region in rare exceptional cases.

Visiting relatives or vacationing outside their own “autonomous community,” for example, are strictly forbidden. Germans and citizens of other countries, meanwhile, are allowed into the country with virtually no obstacles. From high risk countries, a PCR test is sufficient.

That’s why people are ranting everywhere these days. In cafés, in the media, on television, on the internet. And also in politics. Especially in the capital of Madrid, where residents are known to be particularly proud, argumentative and self-confident and are reluctant to be told what to do, the Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has become the bogeyman. 

The conservative regional government is ranting particularly loudly: “It is incomprehensible that someone from Madrid is not allowed to move freely in Spain, and a Frenchman, a German or a Belgian can enter,” criticized Health Minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero.

“Spain will be a bunker for Spaniards and an oasis for tourists from abroad at Easter,” headlined the newspaper “ABC” over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Will it be possible to go on holiday in Germany over Easter?

The paper “Última Hora” spoke of “arbitrariness”, and even the Mallorca Zeitung stated: “Easter vacations in Mallorca: for Germans yes, for Spaniards no”.

On the Internet, the indignation is no less great, with hundreds of daily complaints. “Let’s see if I got this right: I live in the south of Madrid. So at Easter, my daughter, who lives in Germany, is allowed to visit me, but my son, who lives in Illescas just five kilometres away from me, he’s not allowed to? Very logical,” Yeni protested on Twitter. 

Twitter user Jiménez Caballero also expressed surprise: “At Easter, I’m not allowed to go to my vacation home on the beach, but my neighbour who lives in Germany is allowed to?”

Could tourists cause a spike in numbers?

This is not just a matter of frustration, envy and lack of understanding. After the number of coronavirus cases in Spain has been rapidly reduced recently in the wake of sometimes very strict restrictions, many are afraid tourists from countries with significantly higher levels – and that includes Germany – could cause a new coronavirus wave.

Too well remembered are the images of the summer of 2020, when after months of lockdown with “house arrest” and border closures, tourism was allowed again and drunken vacationers from Germany and the UK partied wildly at Ballermann without following social distancing protocols, flirting with strangers at close range and hugging street vendors.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re very glad to be there’: German tourists fly to Mallorca in post-Covid pilot project

On the Balearic Islands themselves, scepticism has also mixed with joy. Yet the people on the Mediterranean islands know better than any other Spaniards that they cannot survive without tourists. 

The travel industry accounts for 35 percent of regional income here, compared with “only” 12 percent for Spain as a whole. In the wake of the pandemic and the restrictions on freedom of travel, unemployment and poverty grew dramatically on the Balearic Islands – more than anywhere else in Spain. 

The queues in front of the food banks are still getting a little longer every day.

Still, many here are against allowing tourism. “This is the best way to become a risk area again,” said well-known island cartoonist Pau to the Mallorca Zeitung. 

“For a season that is mediocre at best,” he said, travellers are putting “even more lives at risk.”

Musician Isis “Apache” Montero said: “As long as we residents are subject to restrictions during Easter week – only gatherings of no more than two households, closing of bars and restaurants at 5 p.m., curfew etc. – they should not let anyone in who does not have his primary residence in Mallorca.”

Speaking to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Joan Trian Riu, managing director of the major Majorcan hotel chain Riu Hotels & Resorts, appealed for common sense: “Tourists need to behave responsibly.” 

Member comments

    1. Yep, completely crazy. The ones that will go wil not care, come back with Covid, & then it’s even lomger til I can get back to work
      If they wan to go they should be Isolated BEFORe the flight Home AND after – and not Isolation at Home, straight into a Covid Hotel from Baggage pick up.

  1. So ICU doctors in Germany are asking for further lockdowns, and the government is happy for dumb, selfish people to travel and prolong the misery for so many – and destroy families – in Germany?

    You could not make this up.

  2. I am not sure that travel itself is the biggest issue here, but rather that the types of people that would travel to this location during Easter are self selected from the selfish and drunk YOLO subcategory of humans. The only potential saving grace is that these vacationers will likely be spending time outside where transmission rates are lower.

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The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.