Balearic and Canary Islands’ officials have launched a desperate bid to open ‘safe air corridors’ with the UK.
Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres has asked the Spanish government to try to negotiate the corridors with the UK.
The region is seeking to enable British tourists to continue holidaying in islands like Tenerife and Gran Canaria without having to quarantine on return following a similar move by the Balearic Islands’ government.
The Foreign Office has only urged Brits to avoid all but essential travel to the Spanish mainland, not the Canaries and Balearics, following a spike in coronavirus cases which has hit regions like Catalonia and Aragon the hardest.
Despite this, British holidaymakers returning from all parts of Spain will have to undergo a two-week quarantine under the current rules, which were updated by the British government in a snap decision overnight.
Mr Torres is said to have asked Spain’s Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto and Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya to lead the air corridor negotiations with Britain.
Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres has asked the Spanish government to try to negotiate ‘safe’ air corridors with the UK. Above, tourists and locals bask on Las Palmas beach in Gran Canaria earlier this month
Meanwhile Balearic Islands officials have launched a similar bid to establish ‘safe air corridors’ with the UK to save their summer season and the holiday hopes of thousands of Brits after the government axed Spain from its safe travel list.
They confirmed overnight they were working with the Spanish and UK governments to set up the scheme for islands like Majorca and Ibiza.
The announcement came after the Foreign Office ordered British tourists returning from Spain to self-isolate for two weeks from midnight last night, with just five hours notice.
The British government imposed a snap decision to axe Spain from the safe travel list in a decision which has been described as a ‘hammer blow’ by hotel bosses in Benidorm, although the town’s mayor Toni Perez insisted he would still encourage holidaymakers to come because it was a ‘safe’ destination.
The UK government is now advising ‘against all but essential travel to mainland Spain’.
Balearic Islands officials say they are pinning their hopes on establishing ‘safe air corridors’ with the UK to save their summer season. Above, tourists in Spain faced a race against time to fly back home to avoid the mandatory two-week quarantine that came into effect last night
The announcement came after the Foreign Office ordered British tourists returning from Spain to self-isolate for two weeks from midnight last night, with just five hours notice. Above, tourists at the beach in the Balearic island of Mallorca
The decision was described as a ‘hammer blow’ by hotel bosses in Benidorm. Above, tourists arrive at Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands on July 25, shortly before the new quarantine measures were announced
After learning the region was not on the Foreign Office ‘black list’, the Balearic Islands’ government said in a statement late last night: ‘Great Britain has excluded the Balearic Islands from its recommendation to its citizens not to travel to Spain, something which means that travel insurance is still valid.
‘The Balearic Islands’ government has been working over the last few hours to establish the basis for a safe air corridor with the UK, following the British government’s quarantine imposition for all holidaymakers returning from Spain.
‘The British government’s decision has caused great concern in the Balearic Islands’ government, given that it will cause serious problems to tourist activity in our islands.
‘One of the main arguments justifying the creation of a safe air corridor between the islands and the UK is the health situation here.
‘The islands have had eight confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past fortnight, whereas in the UK the figure is 14.1 and in Spain as a whole, 37.9.’
Benidorm mayor Toni Perez reacted to the UK quarantine decision by admitting: ‘ ‘We very much regret it. In Benidorm we’ve worked hard to minimise the risks and we haven’t got any problems here at the moment.
‘It’s a very safe destination with beaches which are very well organised and businesses which have established protocols and are applying them.
‘The Balearic Islands’ government has been working over the last few hours to establish the basis for a safe air corridor with the UK,’ Balearic officials said in a statement last night. Above, tourists arrive at Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands, on Saturday
‘One of the main arguments justifying the creation of a safe air corridor between the islands and the UK is the health situation here,’ the statement read. Above, a woman wears a mask as she walks along Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca
‘The problem in Spain is in certain areas, but in the end this decision affects us all and especially resorts like ours whose main market is British.
‘We are going to continue working along the lines we have been up to now, knowing that what we’ve been doing has been done well and that we offer a safe destination thanks to the hard work of everyone here.’
He added: ‘These questions of quarantine are something we can’t control but Benidorm will continue to welcome those who want to come here and will continue to offer visitors including foreign tourists maximum health security.’
Toni Mayor, president of the Benidorm and Costa Blanca hotel association Hosbec, described the shock UK move as a ‘hammer blow.’
He said: ‘It couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was looking pretty good from August 1.
‘Bookings were up including family bookings and around 85 per cent of our hotels were going to be open and we were looking forward to having at least something of a normal summer.
‘This announcement is going to bring everything crashing down.
Benidorm mayor Toni Perez reacted to the UK quarantine decision by admitting: ‘ ‘We very much regret it. In Benidorm we’ve worked a lot to minimise the risks and we haven’t got any problems here at the moment.’ Above, tourists walk along Magaluf beach in Spain’s Balearic Island of Mallorca
‘The British tourists who are already here have got no other option but to stay and self-isolate when they return.
‘But I fear a lot of those who were planning to come are now going to cancel.
‘There’s got to be a question mark over how many tour operators are going to carry on operating as planned.
‘It’s not just places like Benidorm that’s going to suffer, other popular holiday destinations like the Canaries and Majorca are going to be hard hit too.
‘The UK is 18 million holidaymakers every year and the British are Spain’s number one holiday market.’
He added: ‘There were hotels in Benidorm which were going to open on August 1 with the increased number of British arrivals that will end up staying closed now, and others that had opened but could shut following this announcement.
‘There’s bound to be question marks now about whether the Spanish government should have allowed discos and pubs to open so quickly.
‘But the reality here is this pandemic has been a learning experience for all of us.
Under the new rules, the government has said UK tourists who are already in Spain can stay for the remainder of their holiday. However, from today, they will have to self-isolate for fourteen days on their return to Britain. Above, tourists at Punta Ballena street in Magaluf
‘It’s a very complicated situation. I think we can wave goodbye to any hopes of a normal summer now with this announcement.
‘I’m obviously very concerned about the outlook for the future.’
Under the new rules, the government has said UK tourists who are already in Spain can stay for the remainder of their holiday.
However, from today, they will have to self-isolate for fourteen days on their return to Britain.
The rules apply to travellers returning from anywhere in Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands.