From this month Spain’s borders open once more to foreign tourism. However, the long-awaited return of the Canary Islands’ main economic activity will come with new challenges and new risks that the islands are still addressing.
First published in Gazette Life, July 1st 2020.
Major airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2, BA, Air Europa and Wizz Air have all said they are relaunching 40-50% of their routes to Spain from July 1st, and some Lanzarote hotels are already planning to open their doors as the month goes along.
But July will be nothing like a return to normal, which is likely to be gradual and cautious. There are two main reasons for this – the Canarian desire to protect the image of its tourist industry, and the worries of the tourists themselves.
The image of the Canaries as a holiday resort was damaged in February when reports of a locked-down hotel in Tenerife went international. This was one of the earliest and most newsworthy outbreaks in Europe and the strict quarantine imposed by the Canarian authorities seemed cruel and drastic.
In hindsight, though, we can see that it was swift action like this that helped the Canaries end up with the second lowest rate of cases and the lowest rate of deaths per thousand people of any community in Spain. The Canaries is currently among the safest places in Europe.
Yet the Canarian government know exactly how precarious all this is, and are desperate to avoid any further outbreaks that could ruin all the good work done until now. President Ángel Víctor Torres insisted on tests at origin for all visitors until it became clear that this would not be agreed on a national or international level, but the Canaries are still determined to do what is possible to detect, trace and contain any cases that arrive.
This insistence on caution will be vital to alleviate a second factor – the worries of tourists themselves. Island destinations around the world now see the possibilities of selling themselves as “Covid-free”, and a firm control on the virus in the Canaries could prove to be a powerful selling point. Hotels are also doing their utmost to promote health security, while airlines are actively producing campaigns to try and convince people that flying is far safer than they think.
Millions of people can’t wait to come back to Lanzarote. Now is the time to convince them that it’s safe to return,