Nearly 11,000 German tourists will be allowed to holiday on the Balearic Islands before they reopen to the rest of Europe.
Spain’s Tourism Minister, Reyes Maroto, and the local government of the Balearics confirmed on Tuesday that a “pilot scheme for the reactivation of tourism” will go underway on the Spanish Mediterranean archipelago.
The Balearic Islands comprise Mallorca, Formentera, Menorca and Ibiza.
The pilot scheme plans for up to 10,900 German nationals to visit the four islands in small groups. Strict health and safety measures are to be implemented such as staggered arrivals with each tourist to submit to a temperature check and health questionnaire upon arrival.
Anyone suspected of being infected with COVID-19 will be isolated.
The Balearics’ government said that the plan has been agreed with the business sector and local unions and that it will give the archipelago a “competitive advantage over other destinations” and help secure jobs.
Local media is reporting the scheme is to start on June 15.
Spain has been hit hard by the pandemic with more than 27,100 deaths attributed to COVID-19 — the fourth highest tally in Europe after the UK, Italy and France.
The economy has also been severely impacted with growth shrinking by 5.2% in the first quarter, according to a preliminary reading. Unemployment, already at 13.5% before the health crisis, is forecast to rise to 20%.
The country, keen to ensure the tourist season can be salvaged as the sector accounts for 12% of the nation’s economy, has announced that borders to international visitors would reopen on July 1.
Borders were shut on March 17 and only Spanish nationals or residents, as well as cross-border workers, have been allowed to enter the country since then. Foreign nationals whose travel was deemed essential were required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Several EU member states have already reopened their borders or created so-called “travel bubbles” with countries deemed safe.
Last week, Austria announced that residents of neighbouring countries bar Italy could once more cross the border. Norway and Denmark have also said they would open up tourism to each other from June 15 but excluded fellow Scandinavian country Sweden from the plan.
Elsewhere, New Zealand and Australia have indicated they are working on their own travel bubble plan.
The government did not say why German nationals are the only ones allowed under the Spanish pilot scheme.
German tourists make up the third biggest group of visitors to Spain with more than 497,000 of them visiting the countries last year.
Residents of the UK and France were the most numerous to visit Spain in 2019 but the two countries have been harder-hit by the deadly virus than Berlin. Germany has so far recorded 8,728 deaths and 186,300 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.