The Balearic Islands were "the main destination in the Mediterranean that is open to the world". Thus said tourism minister Iago Negueruela on Tuesday. By Friday, the Balearics were not alone, as from Monday the airports of Spain will be thrown open to UK travellers (and certain others) without the need for a negative PCR test. This was an opening to a world beyond the European Union, and so expectations were suddenly raised on the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava, in Benidorm as well as Mallorca of an avalanche of Australian and Japanese sunseekers in addition to the British. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was to then go one step further - from June 7, the whole world can descend on Mallorca and Spain, provided it is vaccinated.
Still on amber
There was of course one slight snag where the latter were concerned. And it was amber. Speculation, a constant travel and media companion for months, was never more evident than last week. Could there be a UK green-listing for Majorca (with or without the rest of Spain) by the end of June? Might amber turn to green much earlier? In an in-depth interview with the Bulletin, the CEO of Jet2 and Jet2holidays, Steve Heapy, when not targeting the UK Border Force and a certain unnamed other tour operator for criticism, was hopeful of a favourable Balearics announcement at the beginning of June and of a UK holiday lift-off around mid-June.
The Christmas tourism season
While minister Negueruela was confident of the Balearics already being open, President Armengol suggested that there was about to be a reopening. A "decisive moment" had been reached, she opined in Madrid on Thursday, suggesting that once the reopening occurs, it will mean a tourism season lasting until the beginning of winter, which in astronomical terms more or less coincides with Christmas.
Excesses no more
The president also maintained that a new stage of tourism will be opening up. Gone will be the "tourism of excesses", a Balearic government euphemism for referring to parts of Magalluf and Playa de Palma. For a tour operator such as Jet2, we learned from Steve Heapy that it would be handy if the government could actually give an idea what it has in mind for Magalluf. He lamented: "I really don't know what Magalluf is any more."
Businesses in Magalluf were critical of the government's latest measures. Yes, there is now a limited opening of bar and restaurant interiors. But why only until 6pm? Criticism of the government was otherwise coming from the opposition and in the knowledgeable form of a one-time Partido Popular tourism minister. Jaime Martínez demanded that the tourist tax be suspended in order to counteract "worrying lost competitiveness" to other destinations. He also attacked "disastrous management" of the vaccination programme, of which the president said that it was advancing at "an extraordinary pace".
So extraordinary was this pace that the health service called for the temporary re-employment of retired nurses to help out. This was partially to ensure cover for holidays, but was there also a hidden admission that the pace isn't as rapid as it might be? It would seem that not all the weekly deliveries of vaccine immediately end up in arms. The government has of course said that it doesn't need to call in the private health sector or the army to assist. Instead, was this a case of turning to retired nurses?
The curfew continues
Otherwise, it was a generally encouraging week Covid-wise. The incidence rates were down and there was another Super Thursday with just fifteen new cases (there had been nineteen the previous Thursday). Nevertheless, the government has insisted on innumerable occasions that there needs to be a slow and prudent de-escalation of restrictions, and so the curfew was maintained for another fortnight. The question is - will it be lifted entirely towards the end of the first week of June?