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UPDATE: When will Spain lift all its Covid-19 travel restrictions?

Spain has dropped almost all its domestic Covid restrictions, but entry requirements for travel are still in force. Here's the latest on when Spanish authorities will allow unvaccinated tourists in, remove mask rules for transport and scrap the Covid certificate and testing requirements.

UPDATE: When will Spain lift all its Covid-19 travel restrictions?
It’s hard to understand why Spain isn’t adapting its travel regulations to the more lenient approach of domestic rules. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

Over the past couple of months, the Spanish government has gradually adapted legislation to its plans to treat Covid-19 like the flu

They’ve stopped counting and reporting each and every Covid-19 case in the country, lifted quarantine for mild or asymptomatic cases and scrapped mask wearing rules for most indoor public spaces

And yet when it comes to Covid-19 travel rules, many still remain in place. 

Most travellers need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery either in the form of a Covid Digital Certificate or another certificate from an official body, and many still need to fill in a health control form.

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

Unvaccinated EU tourists who haven’t had Covid in the past six months have to get a test before visiting Spain and those who did get vaccinated but did so more than 9 months ago, have to get a booster shot to be considered immunised again.

But on May 19th, there was an important development.

Spain’s Tourism Minister announced that “in a matter of days” unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Britons and Americans would be able to travel to Spain for a holiday with proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

The surprise announcement came just days after Spanish health authorities decided to extend the ban on non-essential travel for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers until June 15th

It represents a key moment for travel restrictions in Spain as for practically the entirety of the pandemic unvaccinated non-EU tourists have been unable to travel to Spain, with only exceptional reasons for travel allowed. 

Even though the EU has urged Member States to implement similar Covid travel legislation throughout the pandemic, they are free to ease or tighten restrictions as they see fit based on their epidemiological situation.

Other EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Greece is the latest country added to this list, a direct competitor of Spain in the tourism stakes.

France, Portugal and Italy still have some of the requirements Spain has, but they decided to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists in with a negative Covid test more than a month ago.

France has also just implemented EU advice and removed the requirement of wearing a mask on public transport, whereas Spain has decided to keep the rule for inside airplanes, trains, taxis and buses but not airports or stations. 

When will Spain lift its other Covid-19 travel restrictions?

Aside from the Tourism Minister’s recent announcement that Spain will soon allow unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen tourists in – arguably the biggest travel restriction still in place in Spain – the Spanish government has given no indication of when it will, nor if it will remove some of the remaining travel rules. 

It’s been hard to understand why Spain didn’t adapt its travel regulations to the more lenient approach of domestic rules earlier, as the country has been looking to put the pandemic behind it and recover the full force of its tourism industry for several months now.

Perhaps Spanish authorities didn’t consider that the added income unvaccinated tourists could bring was worth the potential health risk of allowing them in, but Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto did recognise that the upcoming lifting of the ban will help boost tourism numbers.

There’s also the 270-day validity of Covid vaccine passports, which means that those who haven’t had a booster shot have to either pay for a test or get the jab, and if not they cannot travel to Spain. Another potential factor dissuading visitors.

Maroto did say “we are going to stop requiring the vaccination certificate” but it is unlikely she was referring to scrapping the need to show a Covid-19 certificate altogether when arriving in Spain, as she was most likely  just referring to stop requiring a vaccination certificate from non-EU tourists. 

In early May, the European Parliament did back a one-year extension for the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework to be kept in place, but MEPs have stressed Covid travel rules should be limited and proportionate, and based on the latest scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Covid-19 infection rate data from across the EU as of May 12th 2022. Map: ECDC

The ECDC’s latest epidemiological map of the EU shows far less infection data than previously, which showcases the changing attitudes of EU nations that have lifted all travel restrictions, although the map does show how Spain’s fortnightly Covid infection rate continues for the most part above 300 cases per 100,000 people, the highest risk category.

“The European Commission (EC) strongly supports the decisions of the Member States to lift these restrictions when possible”, EC sources are quoted as saying in Spanish daily 20 minutos.

With previous Covid rules, the Spanish government has often waited to see what neighbours Italy and France did first, or for an official announcement from the EU, before executing a decision. 

This may be what Spain needs to ease the remaining Covid travel rules, masks on public transport and having a Covid health pass or health form to prove your vaccination, testing or recovery status. 

Until then, Spanish health authorities may continue to play it safe.

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EXPLAINED: The new tourism tax in Spain’s Valencia region

Spain’s Valencian Community has become the latest territory to introduce a tourism tax for holidaymakers staying in all types of accommodation in the region. Here’s how much extra it will cost tourists and why it’s a controversial measure.

EXPLAINED: The new tourism tax in Spain’s Valencia region

What’s the Valencia region’s new tourism tax?

On Thursday November 24th, Valencia’s regional parliament approved a tourism tax that’s been in the pipeline for years.

It will come into force in the popular coastal region at the end of 2023 or early 2024. 

The tourism tax will be applied to all types of tourism accommodation in the Valencia region, from hotels to campsites, hostels, country houses, tourist apartments and docked boats and yachts. Holidaymakers arriving on cruise ships will also pay.

Tourists will pay between 50 cents and €2 per night and per person depending on the type of accommodation they choose, for a maximum of seven nights.

That means that a couple spending a week at a five or four-star hotel in Valencia will pay €28 more on average as a result of the tourism tax.

People with a disability level of 66 percent or above, under-16s, guests on Spain’s pensioner Imserso scheme and people under 30 staying at hostels are among those who will not be charged extra to incorporate the tax.

Even though it’s called a tourism tax, residents of the Valencia region will also have to pay it if they stay at short-term accommodation in their territory.

The levy will be compulsory but individual municipalities in the region of 5 million inhabitants will be able to decide whether to apply it to their tourism accommodation or not. 

Left-wing coalition party Compromís described the tourism tax as a “small contribution” for holidaymakers to pay.

Why has the tourism tax been introduced and why is it controversial?

The legislation states that all the proceeds be reinvested into the sustainable development of the tourism sector of La Comunitat Valenciana, which is home to Alicante, Benidorm and other popular tourist spots on the Costa Blanca. 

Such funds would partly go to addressing the issue of a lack of affordable and available housing for locals in popular tourism spots.

“I prefer that tourists pay more rather than see Valencians paying more in taxes,” Valencia city’s left-wing mayor Joan Ribó said last July about the fact that the large volume of holidaymakers in the city puts extra pressure on municipal resources, from cleaning to security.

“I’ve been to cities with a tourism tax and I haven’t considered not going because of it”.

But the measure doesn’t have the support of all of Valencia’s main political parties, with 51 votes in favour and 46 against in Thursday’s vote.

Hoteliers and hospitality associations are also against the tax, seeing it as a stumbling block on their way to recovery after the losses incurred since the pandemic.

Even regional tourism secretary Francesc Colomer said that a report by Alicante University had found that in the medium term the tourism tax would not be appropriate to introduce.

That same report covered the potential difficulty of implementing this tax and the problems it could cause, as many tour operators may look for new destinations where this tax is not required.

Where else are there tourism taxes?

Two other regions in Spain already have a tourism tax in place: Catalonia since 2012 and the Balearic Islands since 2016. 

Tourists in Catalonia pay between €0.60 and €3.50 extra a night (an extra €1.75 is added in Barcelona), whereas in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera it’s usually €3 per night and per person.

Tourism taxes are also applied in other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovenia and Slovakia, where a fixed price is applied regardless of the type of accommodation.

However, in cities with large volumes of tourists such as Amsterdam, Berlin or Vienna the tourist pays a percentage (7, 5 and 3 percent respectively) on the amount they pay per night for their accommodation.