Europe

Spain sees foreign tourist numbers rebounding to 45 mln this year from pandemic slump

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People gather at a lookout point, with a view of the city of Barcelona in the background, in Barcelona, Spain, May 6, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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MADRID, May 12 (Reuters) - Spain expects foreign tourist arrivals to reach as many as 45 million this year, over half the pre-pandemic level, its tourism minister said on Wednesday, inviting potential visitors to start planning their Spanish vacations.

"Spain will be ready to reopen to the world very soon," Reyes Maroto told reporters at a presentation of Spain's promotional campaign to entice visitors back this summer.

"International tourists can start planning their Spanish vacations now."

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Foreign tourism to Spain - the world's second most visited country before the COVID-19 pandemic - plunged 80% last year from 83.5 million visitors in 2019 as pandemic restrictions brought leisure travel to a virtual standstill.

With vaccination rates rising across the world, tourism-dependent nations like Spain are hoping to salvage at least some of the economically vital summer season and are scrambling to define rules for safe travel.

The government had previously said it expected tourism to reach half its pre-pandemic levels this year.

Maroto said Spain would introduce a colour-based classification for tourist visits, assigning countries with low infection rates a green rating, while those with a higher risk would be classified as orange or red.

A European Union-wide vaccine passport scheme set to come into force in June would only be required for travellers from higher-risk countries, Maroto said.

On Tuesday she announced that Spain hoped to lift a requirement for British travellers to present a negative PCR test from May 20. read more

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Reporting by Inti Landauro, Editing by Nathan Allen

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