Protocols and digital health certificates mean tourists can visit “with certainty”
Speaking at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) summit in Mexico on Tuesday, Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Fernando Valdés, said that “Spain will be ready in June to tell all travelers worldwide that you can visit us with certainty.”
The bold claim comes as Spain prepares to take part in a pilot digital health certificate scheme beginning in May, with June being earmarked as representing a “before and an after” compared to the situation last year.
The plan is part of a wider EU scheme to roll out what’s so far been called a Digital Green Certificate, a temporary measure that aims to make continent-wide travel possible as early as this summer. The Certificate would use a QR code containing information pertaining to a traveler’s health status, including whether they’ve had an approved COVID-19 vaccine, fully recovered from the virus or tested negative within an acceptable time frame.
“Not a magic wand”
Valdés continued to stress that the certificates were “not a magic wand”, but the program, coupled with Spain’s continued vaccine rollout, would be “fundamental to offering travelers certainty.”
Spain’s aggressive testing of the pilot scheme — which will be put in place at all 46 Spanish airports in May — has been in the pipeline since February, highlighting the importance of tourism to the country’s economy.
Around 12% of Spain’s GDP comes from tourism, and attempts earlier in the year to open borders to travelers from France garnered worldwide attention.
Vaccination of the country’s population of 47 million has stepped up in pace, with 14,994,667 doses of the vaccine administered, and 4,020,945 people already receiving both jabs. The government says it plans to have 70% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of the summer.
Greece planning on May re-opening
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— WTTC (@WTTC) April 27, 2021
News of the planned reopening coincides with the EU and the UK entering talks in the coming days about Britons being able to travel to the continent. A 17 May date has been mooted, and EU countries with large tourism sectors — such as Spain — are pushing for cooperation with London.
At the same summit, Greek tourism minister Harry Theocharis outlined plans to make travel to Greece more open and available, with 14 May their initial plan for welcoming international visitors, and an even earlier date, 3 May, for cruises.
Like Spain, Greece depends heavily on tourism to aid its economy, and again the message of cooperation was front and center. The UK’s Under-Secretary of State for Tourism, Nigel Huddleston told the WTTC that “we absolutely want to work, and are working very closely, with our EU partners and indeed around the world.”
The final key to the scheme working, and one that Spain is counting on, is these reciprocal arrangements, with Valdés making the point that “it is no use to open only one side of the equation,” reiterating that certainty was key, and that if travelers can go one way but face restrictions when they return home, then that wouldn’t help tourism.
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