Spain wants EU to offer subsidised holidays to European pensioners

Spanish tourism authorities are pushing for the country’s Imserso scheme, which offers subsidised holiday packages for under €400 to seniors in Spain, to be offered to over-65s across the European Union. 

Spain wants EU to offer subsidised holidays to European pensioners
If approved by the EU, the scheme could see pensioners from EU countries travel to Spain on state-subisided holidays. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)

Imserso is a social scheme offering big discounts on holidays to the elderly in Spain, a programme that aims to improve their quality of life and health, whilst also alleviating employment issues for the country’s tourism sector during low season. 

Over-65s with a Spanish pension, as well as other people who fulfil certain criteria, can enjoy holidays in different locations across Spain for €115 (four days) to €405 (ten days), including accommodation, food and transport. 

READ ALSO – What foreigners in Spain should know about applying for Imserso

As could be expected, the scheme is very popular in Spain, so much so that Spanish tourism authorities have pitched it to the European Union in the hope that it can be exported across the continent. 

“Today, seniors constitute 21 percent of the total population of the European Union and spend 5.6 percent of their income on tourism,” said Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism Fernando Valdés during his presentation of the European Senior Tourism Programme in Dijon, France. 

A European Imserso would reinforce the sense of belonging to the European Union among its seniors, Valdés added, as it would see pensioners travel outside of their country’s borders to another EU nation on a state-subsidised holiday. 

Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism also highlighted that the Imserso could help to address the matter of seasonality for tourism-dependant economies in Europe.  

Spain’s Imserso is currently proving to be a lifeline for some popular destinations in the country as the pre-booked subsidised holiday packages by seniors have remained unaffected by the war in Ukraine.

“Europe should continue being the main tourism destination of the world,” Valdés argued as he called for the EU to mobilise community resources and allocate funds if “we want to provide our tourism sector with the tools to turn itself into a more sustainable, inclusive, digital and, therefore, resilient sector.”

Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto also stressed on March 23rd that a European senior tourism scheme would “be a reward for the elderly, who have suffered the most during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”