There have been no cruise ships in Palma since March 2020. | Gabriel Alomar

Spain's secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdés, has offered the first real indication that the Spanish government will be lifting its ban on cruise ships so that they can operate from and stop over at Spanish ports this summer. The ban has been in place since March last year. The Canary Islands have been an exception, as permission was given in October.

Speaking at the annual summit of the World Travel & Tourism Council on Monday, Valdés said that cruise tourism is a fundamental segment for Spain, which is the leader in cruise tourism in the Mediterranean, thanks to the ports of Barcelona and the Balearics.

He added: "We are working with the ministries of health and transport as well as with the State Ports on approving protocols for cruise ships, which should operate like airlines." As soon as the health ministry feels that protocols can come into operation and that certification mechanisms are enabled, "there will be a willingness to open up to cruise ships". This will assist in the general reactivation of the tourism sector.

Reflecting on the impact of the EU's digital green certificate and vaccination programmes, the secretary of state stated that it will be possible to recover 50% of all tourism activity that there was in 2019. By September, he observed, 70% of Europe's population will have been vaccinated and quite probably 100% of the British and North American populations. As announced by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, it looks as if vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to EU countries this summer.