Madrid (CNN) – The Spanish island of Majorca in the Mediterranean plans to welcome a limited number of Germans and other travelers at the end of June in a “pilot project” to restart tourism which has been stopped due to the coronavirus, said Francina Armengol, regional president of the Balearic Islands.
The plan was for the large German tour operator TUI to fly to Germany or other European countries or regions that, like Majorca, have low infection rates, Armengol told CNN and other journalists during a video call.
“We are ready to do the pilot project at the end of June, so that the groups can be assured of health security,” said Armengol, speaking from Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the island. “We must learn to live with Covid-19 and how to do it safely.”
In Germany, TUI has confirmed that it has seen renewed tourism in Majorca and beyond.
“We are in constructive negotiations with a number of local governments where we believe there may be summer holidays,” TUI communications manager Martin Riecken told CNN on the phone. “We do not believe that Spain as a whole, but the Balearics, even the Canary Islands, with low infection rates, where local governments have made good progress.”
TUI, he added, is also in talks with tourist destinations in Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Bulgaria.
Restarting tourism will depend on national governments reopening borders and eliminating the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers where they are in place, said Riecken.
Spain has announced 14-day mandatory quarantines for all international travelers to Spain, starting May 15, and the rule will last through the country’s state of emergency.
Tourists in the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca in 2017.
AFP via Getty Images
The heightened travel talk comes when a concept called “green bridges” is gaining currency in the European Union and in various capitals. Its supporters, including some academics, argue that a safe way to restart tourism and devastated economies is to move travelers on “green bridges” directly between low-infection areas.
Riecken said TUI, with 28 million travel customers per year, has heard of the term. “We are looking at specific point-to-point agreements between countries of origin and countries of destination where we believe holidays are safe in Crown times,” he said. “We expect tourism to gradually restart, country by country and destination by destination.”
Mallorca and the other three islands of the Balearic archipelago are actively preparing for the reopening, said Armengol.
The Balearic Islands last year had 16 million tourists, a quarter of which came from Germany. This year, due to the coronavirus, they expect 4 to 6 million visitors. Tourism accounts for 30 percent of local GDP and is worth around € 10 billion ($ 10.7 billion), said Iago Negueruela, head of tourism in the Balearic Islands, who also participated in the video call with journalists.
“The best way to ensure safety is for the tour operator to check tourists when they leave Germany, how they arrive at hotels and excursions. It is the safest way to travel, rather than individually, so we do the pilot project with companies that I already have. experience in this, “said Negueruela.
The Balearics would be TUI’s first destination in Spain when it resumes operations, Riecken said. Any temperature checks on travelers would be carried out by airport staff, he explained, and said that TUI could provide travelers’ contact information to local authorities “if necessary”.
Joggers during the blockade of Spain.
Al Goodman / CNN
Separately, some 200 German holiday home owners in Mallorca wrote to Armengol last month, his office confirmed to CNN, lobbying to return to their properties as soon as the blockade of Spain is lifted.
Armengol said the intensive care beds of the Balearic hospital were not stretched to the limit during the height of the pandemic, as in some other parts of Spain. This summer, healthcare professionals would immediately test travelers who show symptoms of the virus, even very mild ones, and would isolate them if they tested positive.
The Balearic government is also working on a mobile phone app, the use of which would be voluntary, to inform travelers if they have been in physical contact with someone who has recently proved positive for Covid-19, Armengol said.
Spain is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona. The nation’s state of emergency began on March 14th to reduce infections. But the government has eased birth restrictions this week for more than half of the Spanish population and promises a gradual reopening.
The German airline Lufthansa recently announced that it plans to resume flights to Mallorca and other destinations in June.
TUI, which has been running tours of Mallorca for 50 years, has its own fleet of planes that carries around 70% of its travelers, said Riecken.
Armengol said that if the pilot will take place by the end of June and be successful, then more tourists could arrive in July. Just as summer starts completely.