The amber listing not having deterred UK holidaymakers entirely. | - REUTERS

Fernando Valdés is Spain’s secretary of state for tourism. He isn’t, as I have read on more than one occasion in the British press, the minister for tourism; that is Reyes Maroto. He became secretary of state in July last year, when his predecessor mysteriously vacated the post. One says mysteriously, as there is general agreement, regardless of what government sources might have said, that she was ushered out of the door because of a balls-up over applications to receive a ‘Responsible Tourism’ seal to indicate adherence to measures for reducing coronavirus contagion.

Mallorcan Bel Oliver, the one-time secretary of state, was not despatched to some touristic gulag to serve time as a consequence of said balls-up. In fact, she wasn’t really shown the door. She merely nipped out, went round the corner from the tourism ministry building in Madrid and found herself with a new job at the nearby World Tourism Organization. The jobs merry-go-round was in full swing, and Fernando Valdés, with no known background in tourism but reputed to have a great knowledge of public administration, was parachuted in as secretary of state.

Generally speaking, tourism secretaries of state oversee public administration matters like ‘Responsible Tourism’ seals of Covid approval (or not). They aren’t usually required to offer pronouncements on great matters of tourism state - the UK green list, for example. That’s for the minister to do. However, Fernando Valdés clearly enjoys the confidence of Reyes Maroto, as he has been doing just this, and quite regularly too.

A contribution he made to the green-list discussion earlier this week went along the lines of his being “convinced” that the UK will include the whole of Spain on the green list from June - as from the next review and decisions to apply from June 7, that is. Strangely enough, others weren’t so convinced. Take Ian Livesey of TUI, for instance. Head of Balearics, mainland Spain, Portugal and Andorra TUI Musement, he said that he was “convinced” that Spain will remain on the amber list.

“I would like to think that Spain will go green, but from all the information I am reading, it seems that the country will remain amber. We have to mentally prepare ourselves for maybe staying on the (amber) list for a few more weeks.” So, here we had a not quite minister for tourism and a not quite overall boss of TUI being convinced of opposite outcomes - one green, one amber.

They clearly can’t both be right, but it doesn’t stop either of them from being convinced. To be fair to them, however, they do both have an interest in the UK traffic lights, and so they are therefore invited for comment on a matter that has aroused the same amount of speculation as there was in the lead-up to the UK’s original announcement that Spain wasn’t on the green list.

Everybody is thus required to make a green-list statement, regardless of whether they know or they don’t know. And let’s face it, no one does. It was perhaps pertinent that Ian Livesey should refer to “all the information I am reading”. He is therefore in much the same boat as the rest of us, and Fernando Valdés. I don’t how good the secretary of state’s English is, but he may well be poring over precisely the same sources, such as Simon Calder, who also won’t know because he isn’t a member of, for instance, the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, whose experts apparently hold destinations’ immediate summer fate in their hand.

While there were those convinced about Spain’s fate (one way or the other), there were others who were more concerned about the specific fate of Mallorca and the Balearics. Robert Courts, under-secretary of state for transport and so roughly at the same level in governmental pecking orders as Fernando Valdés, let it be known that he had asked for an “islands approach” to be adopted when the next review is conducted. He didn’t of course say for certain that the Balearics will be green-listed from June 7, as even he won’t know. He had merely asked.

Islands approach. Where have we heard this before? Or rather, from whom? No less than the secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, who had said some weeks ago that he was in favour of this and was now saying that islands belonging to countries such as Spain and Greece could be given different traffic-light ratings. “If you can get to an island directly, rather than via the mainland, then it’s fair and proper to consider it separately.”

So, was Shapps now fully advocating a green-listing for Mallorca or was this yet another of the statements which so infuriate because there is such lack of clarity? Very oddly, the only person who has shone any clarity on the situation has been someone who has had a great deal to say for himself. Amongst his many statements, Dominic Cummings, asked if he was surprised about the chaos surrounding the traffic-light system, responded: “No. It’s déjà vu all over again.”
It is indeed.

Bizarre - no tests for UK travellers

With Germany having banned travellers from the UK entering its territory because the UK is a “virus variant area of concern” and France imposing a quarantine on UK travellers, it seems utterly extraordinary that Spain has basically given an open invitation. No tests required, come on in!

The amber listing not having deterred UK holidaymakers entirely, there will be those who are hoping to God that Fernando Valdés is wrong. A green listing and everyone will be piling in. The director of the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, says that he would prefer an opening of tourism to be delayed at least another three weeks. “But health experts are not the only voices that the government is listening to now.”

Apart from the fear of variants of concern, the Spanish decision makes a mockery of the principle of the vaccine passports. These were supposed to hold the key to tourism recovery, but other than filling out a health form, the three-element passport principle (test or vaccination or immunity from having had Covid) has been kicked into the long grass.

It doesn’t make sense, other of course than in removing the burdensome cost of tests, but as there is a variant of concern, why is such a risk being taken? It is desperation and, from a Majorcan perspective, it is even more bizarre when one considers that travellers from the mainland must still present tests at Balearic ports and airports.