German tourists arriving. | ENRIQUE CALVO

Excited German tourists in face masks spilled out of Palma airport this afternoon, among the first to arrive at the popular holiday destination after Germany last week lifted quarantine requirements for travellers returning from the Balearic Islands.

Tourists are still not allowed to stay in hotels or holiday lets in Germany, leaving foreign holidays one of the few options for those wanting to get away, although the German government still advises against non-essential travel.

"It is very, very, very exciting and it feels wonderful to be flying again, even if it is for only one week," said tourist Bettina, who works for a travel company, as a group of exuberant young holidaymakers danced outside the airport.

The new arrivals had flown in from various German cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. They all had to provide test results not more than 72 hours old at the airport showing they were COVID-free.

"It was an amazing opportunity to be able to come here despite the coronavirus,» said student Linda Tlucker, 23, who had travelled from Berlin for a two-week holiday.

But while German tourists can enjoy the Balearic resorts, Spaniards will be unable to do so because of a ban on travelling between regions over Easter, leaving many angry.

Asked about the restrictions facing Spaniards, Tlucker said: "It's probably not that fair. But if the region says it is OK (for us to come), there is not much citizens can do about it."

The return of German tourists provides a timely boost for one of Spain's hardest-hit industries. Foreign visitors to Spain fell 80% to 19 million in 2020, the lowest level since 1969, because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

In 2020 the tourism industry accounted for between 4% and 5% of Spain's national output, according to estimates from the Funcas think-tank, down from 12% in 2019.

It was not all smiles at the airport, however, as the sun-seekers were met with drizzly weather conditions.

"The weather is quite bad and it feels like being in Germany," one said.