Spain urged foreign visitors on Monday to return starting in July, as the country eased one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. But many tourism businesses still worry about saving the industry’s summer season.
The world’s second-most visited nation closed its businesses and beaches in March to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Overseas visitors had to be placed in quarantine for two weeks. But a government statement said that requirement will be lifted beginning July 1.
“The worst is behind us,” said Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya on Twitter. “In July we will gradually open Spain to international tourists, lift the quarantine, ensure the highest standards of health safety. We look forward 2 welcoming you!”
Spain usually has about 80 million visitors a year. Tourism makes up more than 12 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and an even bigger share of jobs. So the summer season is important to hold off the possibility of an economic recession.
Restaurants and bars in Madrid and Barcelona were permitted to open outside spaces on Monday, but only at 50 percent capacity. Many businesses stayed closed as owners weighed the value of serving just a few people.
Some of those who did open were not very hopeful.
“It’s complicated, we are not going to be able to save the tourist season, unless (enough) foreigners come,” said Alfonso Gomez, a restaurant owner in Barcelona.
On the streets, people enjoying new-found freedoms were more cheerful. “It’s nice just to feel a bit of normality again after so long,” said Rosie, a writer and Barcelona resident.
Most students in Spain still need to study online. But some schools reopened in the northern Basque area. Returning students had their temperatures checked and wore face masks.
Spain has reported more than 28,000 coronavirus deaths and over 235,000 cases. However, the country has seen the number of daily deaths drop to fewer than 100 for the last week.
The hope of foreign tourism beginning in July raised shares of tourism-related stocks, including major hotel operator Melia Hotels.
The country’s tourism industry is receiving the largest amount of state-supported aid meant to help businesses. The state credit agency ICO says tourism-related businesses have received 6.4 billion euros out of 38 billion in assistance provided in recent weeks.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Ingrid Melander and Jordy Rubio reported on this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in This Story
lockdown – n. the confinement of prisoners to their cells for a temporary period as a security measure
tourism – n. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling
quarantine – n. the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading
standard – n. a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable
bar – n. a place of business for the sale of alcoholic drinks
capacity – n. the largest amount or number that can be held or contained
complicated – adj. hard to understand, explain, or deal with; having many parts or steps