Spain gears up for summer, lifts restrictions on UK tourists

International

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of Coronavirus walk along La Rambla in downtown Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

MADRID (AP) — Spain is revving up for a return of summer tourists, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Friday offering an upbeat outlook after his government lifted travel restrictions on British visitors and the European Union moved a step closer to allowing cross-border travel.

Sánchez said those two developments will bring “a very much better summer” than last year, when the tourist industry in one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations was crushed by limits on travel and gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are hugely thrilled at the prospect of our tourism industry recovering, of the streets of our towns and cities filling up once more,” he told an annual tourism congress in Madrid.

Spain, Sánchez said, will be “delighted, extremely delighted” to receive British tourists again.

Spain is lifting its restrictions on travelers from the United Kingdom beginning Monday. In 2019, Britain sent 18 million people to Spain, the most of any country.

However, Sánchez didn’t mention that Spain is on the U.K. government’s amber list, meaning people traveling back to the U.K. from Spain still need to go into quarantine for 10 days and get multiple COVID-19 tests — a consideration that is likely to dampen enthusiasm for a Spanish holiday. Britons who can’t work from home likely will not be going to Spain until the rules change.

Sánchez said it was “extraordinary news” that the EU is poised to introduce by July 1 a system of COVID-19 travel certificates for EU citizens, allowing them to travel freely across the bloc.

Tourism is a mainstay of the Spanish economy and Sánchez expressed hope that it can be “the engine that hauls the economy forward” after the economic devastation of the pandemic.

The tourism sector accounted for 12% of Spanish GDP in 2019, but that plummeted to just under 6% in 2020.

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