As the Canaries slowly manages to conquer the second wave of coronavirus, bringing the prospect of the return of tourism, concern is shifting to the situation in countries that are the source of the islands’ tourism.
The second wave is still in full flow in many parts of Europe. France yesterday posted 19,000 cases in just one day, almost double the total of the previous day; while Germany’s total of 4,058 is also the highest since the first wave in spring. Austria and Slovakia have recently posted record figures, while the Netherlands and Belgium are also being hit hard by the second wave.
In fact while cases on most of the Canary islands appear to be dropping, it’s hard to identify any of the main tourism markets for the Canaries that isn’t still being hit hard by the second wave. And that’s before you take into account domestic tourism from mainland Spain, which – despite the recent promising performance of several communities – remains the worst-affected country in Europe.
The threat for tourism is not so much that visitors from the traditional northern European countries will import the virus. Although this is a possibility, it has never been a significant cause of outbreaks in the Canaries or Spain. Despite the memories of a Tenerife hotel full of tourists locked down in March (with only one case detected), tourist resorts on the islands and in Spain have usually been among the least-affected areas.
Instead, the real challenge will be for national governments to reopen tourist routes while their own populations remain suspicious and frightened of the spread of the virus. The British government’s decision to impose quarantine restrictions on Spain in July was reportedly taken after some tourists returning from the Balearics tested positive, and positive tests on tourists returning to Scotland, Wales and Plymouth from the Greek island of Zante received widespread publicity before restrictions were placed on it and other Greek islands.
In May, as the Canaries outperformed the rest of Spain, the Canarian Government considered selling the islands as a “Covid-free” destination. That decision looks naive now that official policy has shifted to living with the virus, but while current trends may mean that the comparative safety of the Canaries could become an attraction, it may still be difficult for governments to convince millions of voters that tourist flights are not an unnecessary risk.
On the other hand, there are also millions of European citizens who are dying for a holiday, and desperate for sunshine in what is likely to be a long and grim winter. The Canaries will have to hope that their demands are heard just as clearly.