By Andrew Atkinson

Spain hopes the number of foreign tourists visiting the country can return this year to half pre-pandemic levels, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said on March 22.

“Maybe the ideal goal is to get half of the tourists we had in 2019. This, for the industry, would be an achievement,” said the Minister at a Europa Press news agency conference.

In 2019, Spain had the world’s second highest number of foreign visitors – over 80 million – which plummeted by more than 80% to 19 million tourists in 2020, the lowest level since 1969, as a result of the travel restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism accounted for around 12% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, one job in eight, that activity plunged in 2020. The industry accounted for between 4% and 5% of Spain’s national output, according to estimates from the Funcas think-tank.

Tens of thousands of German tourists arrived in the Balearic islands, in a boost for tourism that has created controversy here as Spaniards cannot go, due to a travel ban.

German tourists in face masks arrived at Palma airport on March 19, being among the first to arrive after Germany lifted quarantine requirements for travellers returning from the Balearic Islands.

Tourists are still not allowed to stay in hotels or holiday lets in Germany, leaving foreign holidays one of the few options for those wanting to get away.

Arrivals were from Berlin, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. Passengers had to provide test results not more than 72 hours old at the airport showing they were COVID-free.

German tourists are scheduled to arrive at Alicante-Elche airport for the Easter period, as previously reported by the Leader newspaper.

The present curfew after easing of lockdown restrictions sees the 10pm to 6am curfew remain unaltered.

Hospitality, bar and restaurant terraces and interiors can open until 6pm, with indoor capacity 30% and a maximum of four people per table.

While German tourists can visit Spain, many Spaniards and expats are unable to travel because of a ban on travelling, including a ban between regions over Easter, leaving many up in arms.

The German government still advises against non-essential travel.

The Spanish government is among countries wanting an international vaccine certificate to be ready for the summer season.