People arrive at Barcelona airport, Spain, Monday, June 7, 2021. Spain is trying to ramp up its tourism industry by welcoming from Monday vaccinated visitors from most countries, as well as all Europeans who prove that they are not infected with the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

To the beach! Spain opens borders to tourists, cruise ships

To the beach! Spain opens borders to tourists, cruise ships

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (AP) — Spain jumpstarted its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European tourists who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. It also reopened its ports to cruise ship stops.

The move opened borders for the first tourists from the United States and other countries outside of the European Union, travelers who had been banned since March last year, when the pandemic hit global travel.

Matthew Eisenberg, a 22-year-old student, excitedly stepped out of Madrid airport’s arrivals lounge, ready to enjoy the Spanish capital along with two more American friends.

“We came to Spain the first day we could, because we are very excited to travel here,” Eisenberg said, showing the certificate for the two Moderna jabs he received in February and March.

But Spain is still banning nonessential travelers from Brazil, India and South Africa, where virus variants have been been a major source of concern.

The official certificates need to show that visitors were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before the trip or that they overcame a COVID-19 infection in the past six months.

The certificates can be in Spanish, English, French or German — or their equivalent translations in Spanish, the government order said. The vaccines accepted are those approved by Europe’s drug regulator — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — as well as two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

The same documents will be valid for visitors from the European Union until the bloc gets together its “Digital Green Certificate” that some have dubbed a vaccine passport for traveling.

Non-vaccinated travelers from the EU’s 27 countries can also enter Spain now with the negative results of recent antigen tests, which are cheaper and faster than PCR tests.

The Spanish government has set a goal of receiving between 14.5 million to 15.5 million visitors between July and September. That’s about 40% of the tourists in the same period of 2019 but twice as many as last summer, when only EU visitors could enter Spain.

Tourism is a major industry that in 2019 accounted for over 12% of Spain’s GDP.

In a setback, many of the British tourists who love Southern Europe’s beaches aren’t expected in large numbers yet because they are required to quarantine on their return to the U.K.

Still, Manchester resident Randolph Sweeting said his holiday in Mallorca was worth the mandatory self-isolation when he gets home.

“I was here twice last year and when I went home I had to quarantine on my own for two weeks. So it’s not a problem for me, I’ve done it before,” the 68-year-old said at the Palma de Mallorca airport.

Belén Sanmartín, director of the Melià Calvià Beach Hotel in Mallorca, said that the U.K. government’s decision to keep Spain in its list of higher-risk territories was hard to understand in the Balearic Islands, where the infection rate is lower than in Britain.

“It has been a big disappointment, because we were ready to receive visitors from the British market,” Sanmartín said, adding that bookings in her hotel were slowly picking up mostly because of Spanish mainlanders and German and French tourists.

In another move to boost tourism, Spanish ports opened to cruise ships on Monday, nearly 15 months after they were banned as the first coronavirus outbreaks were detected.

After peaking in late January at nearly 900 new cases per 100,000 residents in 14-days, the coronavirus contagion indicator in Spain has dropped to 117 per 100,000. Still, its descent has stalled in the past days as new infections are spreading among unvaccinated groups.

Spain has counted over 80,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic.

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Alicia León and Aritz Parra contributed to this report from Madrid.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

Francisco Ubilla And Alicia León, The Associated Press

Tourism

 

Tourists arrive at Barcelona airport, Spain, Monday, June 7, 2021. Spain is trying to ramp up its tourism industry by welcoming from Monday vaccinated visitors from most countries, as well as all Europeans who prove that they are not infected with the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)