Easter procession, Palma, Mallorca

Will tourism return for Easter? Will the processions return for Easter?

07-11-2020Pere Bota

Easter Sunday 2021 is the fourth of April. For Majorca, therefore, the Easter holiday period kicks off the week before. The Holy Week will straddle March and April, and March is when the fightback starts - tourism reactivation in the Balearics will coincide with the Easter processions, assuming they can proceed next year; there weren't any this year.

The government and hoteliers convened last week, and this was no ordinary gathering of the hotelier clans. The bigwigs were out in force - Escarrer of Meliá, Barceló of Barceló, Riu of Riu - and March (the end of March) it will be. There was some acceptance that this will be "very difficult", but rapid tests for tourists could well offer the salvation.

Tests for tourists

But beware the Ides of March and all that. Mid-March, and the Ides might be marked by further tides - the latest waves of the virus. In which case, it won't just be the processions that are once more being threatened. Wave or no wave, the government will nevertheless be prepared. Rapid tests for all tourists, and the government will fork out for these, although the government would prefer tourists to have had tests before getting on planes and ships.

Where might the cash for these tests come from? With a projected additional cost in 2021 of some 230 million euros for various ministries, the 36 million of this year's tourist tax seems destined to cover a part of the 230 million, and so quite possibly the cost of the tests. For all the arguments about the use of tourist tax revenue, this might be considered a worthwhile spend, although this would depend on the comparative costs of tests for a family of four versus fourteen nights in a four-star hotel for the same family.

Hoteliers' fortunes

Breaking off from discussing tourism strategy for 2021 with the government, the island's leading hoteliers may well have huddled together (or as close as social distancing allowed) and consoled each other. Forbes magazine's rich lists for the Balearics and for Spain revealed that the pandemic is forcing hoteliers into penury.

The Escarrers, Barcelós and Rius have seen their fortunes diminish, but one of their number was still able to trump them all - Miguel Fluxà of Iberostar remained in the top ten in Spain and he, as with other hoteliers, will have been keeping a close eye on a certain Trump and the prospect of better, Trump-less days ahead in Cuba.

No confinement to home

Every available Balearic government representative - President Armengol, health minister Patricia Gómez, infectious diseases' spokesperson Javier Arranz, government spokesperson Pilar Costa - was singing from the same Covid hymn sheet. Home confinement is not necessary. The citizens of the islands could breathe comparatively easily in the knowledge that they weren't about to be condemned to something of a spring rerun of lockdown. Before there would be any home confinement, Arranz stated, the ports and airports would be closed.

Closing the borders

Much though the Spanish government has delegated powers to the regions, which include closing their borders, the Balearic government would still have to ask Madrid for permission to close Balearic borders with the rest of Spain, i.e. close the ports and airports. The Balearic government would also have to get the Spanish government onside in arranging tests for tourists at ports and airports. Not for the first time, regional impotence when it comes to the ports and airports was being highlighted.

But even this closure didn't seem to be a priority for the government. It had been discussed in connection with the holidays in December, but a request had not been deemed necessary at this point. This was despite Arranz pointing to positive cases which had entered from Madrid.

It is well understood that the incidence of flu in the Balearics increases after the holidays because of mobility. Given the experience with flu, surely there should be Covid precautions, even if this does mean preventing or limiting holiday period travel.

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