Isabel Oliver is the national secretary of state for tourism. Since the state of alarm was declared, she has remained in her native Majorca. Last week she was at the offices of the national government delegation in Palma and spoke about tourism this year and going forward.
"We are working so that there can be as much of a tourism season as possible. It will be difficult, but we have to achieve it; that is for sure. Our main industry cannot stop."
The European commissioner for tourism recently suggested that tourism may operate at some 60% this summer. Oliver said that "you would want it to be like that, but control of the epidemic determines everything; reactivation will not occur until July." On quarantines and safe corridors for travel, she stressed that it was important to revive the economy under safe conditions. "We must be able to carry out good controls on passengers both within Spain and from abroad. I think the safe corridors proposal is an interesting one."
Asked if there was pressure to lift restrictions as soon as possible, the secretary of state said that there wasn't pressure so much as worry and uncertainty. "International travel is essential for Spain. Right now, the airlines have all their planes on the ground. But being safe to fly is not enough. Airports, hotels, restaurants, beaches - these must all be safe; it is a huge chain. The evolution of the pandemic determines everything. This is why I see there being progressive opening. The important thing will be to maintain social distance and personal hygiene. In the end, it will be a combination of factors."
She explained that she was not pessimistic about foreign tourism this season, but realistic. "We must not deceive ourselves. This will not be resolved until we have a vaccine. It is the case that some people will be reluctant to use certain types of transport. So for Spain, we have options to attract tourists from France and Portugal. For the Balearics, there is the opportunity for safe corridors."
Tourism promotion, she said, will involve an "emotional message" aimed at the domestic market and key overseas markets, such as Germany and the UK. All countries, she acknowledged, will be wanting to promote internal tourism. With regard to a UK minister having suggested that foreign holidays may be unlikely, she observed that "the British are eager to come; the desire to travel exists".
Now that the de-escalation process has started, a plan to relaunch tourism is being prepared with all the necessary support measures. Oliver stressed the importance of control parameters set by the European Union and the Spanish government and of agreements that have been reached with all sectors involved with the tourism industry.
Looking ahead, she considered the future of the tourism model and how it might change. "Sun and beach will continue to drive tourism, but not as before. This virus has brought the world to a standstill and it will have social and economic consequences. Tourism will continue to exist, and Spain is a great destination. But it is time for a 'reset' to improve tourism through more personalised and professionalised services, alternative products, 'calmer' products. The tourism industry is already highly professional and it will accompany this change."
Mass tourism, she observed, will not end, "but it will be transformed". "It will not be the same. Crowded establishments and beaches will be out of fashion. There is a new sensitivity. Anxiety has to be overcome by offering security."