Virtual and safely distanced, the Balearics at the World Travel Market. | Govern de les Illes Balears


Suddenly, the clouds lifted. Clear blue skies over Mallorca heralded a great day for humanity. The boss of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer, called it "the announcement of the century". The vaccine was on its way, and thoughts started to turn to the new, new normal. Life as normal. Masks weren't exactly being hurled into the air by rejoicing crowds abandoning social distancing and smoking as if determined to ensure that the health service remained under strain, but there was light at the end of the dark tunnel and a 90% effectiveness probability of reaching the light.

Tests for foreign travellers

There was apparently a vaccine bounce for the tourism industry, as early bookings started to take off, but cautious optimism was otherwise prevailing, everyone conscious of the fact that a viral rockfall could yet land on the track and derail tourism just metres from the end of the tunnel. In the more immediate short-term, it was difficult to figure out if PCR tests for foreign travellers arriving in Spain was more a case of being between a rock and a hard place than a panacea for safe corridors.

Much of the tourism industry had been demanding tests at points of origin for months, but once the Spanish government saw its own tunnel-end light and decided to insist on tests, much of the tourism industry turned round and said that they weren't such a good idea after all. The rock of being dissuaded from travel by not having tests thus moved close to the hard place of the cost of being required to have tests.

The UK shortening the quarantine

The UK government, never knowingly not prepared to shed confusion on an already incomprehensible situation, put up Grant Shapps to say that shorter quarantines were on their way, plus tests. What an incentive that was. Go to Mallorca, return from Mallorca, and rather than fourteen days in solitary, you can do five, take a test (at a hundred quid plus) and, if you're lucky and it's negative, you can be out after seven days.

The cost of tests

This would be on top of having had to shell out for the test to get to Mallorca in the first place. And woe betide anyone pitching up in Palma minus proof of a negative test, because the Spanish government had also decided that the National Police will slap a fine of up to six grand on you.

Ah but, noted Shapps, there will soon be rapid, rapid tests with rapid, rapid results that cost little more than what tourists need to pay in Mallorcan pharmacies when they sell branded paracetamol rather than the generic paracetamol at a third of the price to the locals. Around five quid. So, that'll be ok, apart from the five days solitary. Or seven, depending on the rapidity.

Virtual tourism reality

The Balearic government was meanwhile all for tests - of the PCR pre-travel variety. Accompanied in a virtual fashion by the Council of Mallorca, the Balearics and Mallorca let the virtual world of the London World Travel Market know that the islands were prepared, moreover, to carry out tests on UK tourists arriving in the Balearics. These tests would apparently be for tourists who hadn't had a test (negative) before setting off for the Balearics.

There were only two slight problems with this. The first was one that the government was well aware of: there are no facilities for testing tourists at Spanish airports. The health minister, who wasn't virtually engaged with London but was physically present in parliament, hinted to the budget committee that there will be tests at some point. This was therefore somewhat surprising in light of the second slight problem, namely that the Balearic government hadn't seemingly known about the intention to fine travellers if they arrive without proof of a negative test.

Confused? We most certainly were. The vaccine therefore offered a different light at the end of the tunnel - one out of all the confusion. Indeed, but then what about vaccination proof for travel?