June 22, 2020 / 7:29 AM / 19 days ago

Spain to decide this week which non-European tourists can visit

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will decide this week which visitors from outside Europe can enter as it welcomes back travellers from neighbouring nations in an effort to revive a tourism industry hammered by the coronavirus lockdown, a minister said.

FILE PHOTO: Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa attends a news conference at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Borders between European Union (EU) nations have reopened, prompting thousands of French to cross into Spain on Sunday seeking cheap tobacco and alcohol.

Spain is the world’s second most-visited nation, with roughly one in five of its normally 80 million annual visitors coming from Britain.

Health Minister Salvador Illa told Cadena SER radio station that Madrid would discuss with European Union (EU) partners whether to also let in travellers from outside the continent and make a decision this week.

Would-be holidaymakers and Spain’s tourism industry are waiting anxiously.

“This year it isn’t a question of making money, it is about losing less,” said Miguel Fluxa, owner of the Iberostar hotel chain, at a news conference on Mallorca island.

Mallorca was the first Spanish destination to open to international tourists last week, but Fluxa still expected summer business to reach only 40% of last year’s rates.

LOCAL OUTBREAKS

Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya confirmed to COPE radio that a two-week self-quarantine for visitors had been lifted, but non-Europeans were still not allowed in except for Spanish passport-holders, health workers or people in transit.

EU nations will decide whether to open borders to non-Europeans based on epidemiologic criteria, she added.

Madrid hopes a resurgence of visitors will allow tourism, which accounts for one job in eight and about 12% of the economy, to salvage its summer season.

Spain had considered a quarantine on travellers from Britain, which has left the EU, but eventually decided not to.

One of the worst-hit nations, Spain has registered 246,272 cases and 28,323 deaths from the COVID-19 disease.

Health Minister Illa said there were some new, small coronavirus outbreaks, but they were under control. Restrictions to mobility were reimposed in three villages in the Aragon region where one of the outbreaks was spotted.

Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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