The hope is for a longer season. | Marcelo Sastre

Balearic tourism minister Iago Negueruela said on Friday that he expects a "strong" start to the tourism season and that it will last longer than usual - "well into autumn".

Speaking at the Europa Press Tourism Forum, Negueruela added that "we have to be optimistic", stressing the need for there to be a tourism season so that 200,000 people can get back to work. The rest of May, the minister observed, will be key. It is necessary to maintain the health situation and the good figures in the Balearics.

This, allied to a faster vaccination programme and the fact that the Balearics are "open", will allow a start "with the guarantee of offering a safe destination to the whole of Europe".

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That tourism needs to start as soon as possible is highlighted by the effects of the pandemic on the Balearic economy. Negueruela pointed to a 23% drop in the first quarter of this year and to - at what was the most critical time - there having been 152,000 workers on ERTE furlough terms in the Balearics. At present, there are 29,000.

Tourism recovery, he explained, will be based on an increase in mobility that must be standard at a European level. This will include measures such as the vaccination passport. He also referred to the specific Balearic initiative of a 'Safety Pack', which includes repatriation insurance and was "very well received in Germany" earlier this week.

Negueruela emphasised the current incidence levels. The Balearics, with 55 per 100,000 for 14 days, have the second lowest incidence in Spain and this is going down. In other destinations, the incidence is higher - Tunisia 170, Turkey 450, Croatia 480.

The de-escalation, he insisted, "must continue to be slow", with the second half of May key to opening up to tourism and "to allowing us to start strongly". On bars and restaurants, he said that if the epidemiological situation is maintained, interiors will begin to open. "If the indices hold up, that's the idea."