Dismayed. Furious. Despondent. Gobsmacked. Devastated. Just a few of the reactions to the shocking news last weekend that a 14-day quarantine period was being reinstated for people returning to the UK from mainland Spain and the Balearic and Canary Islands and that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office was advising against all non-essential travel. Just as it looked like Spain might be possible to salvage something of the summer season, these measures wiped out any hope.
While there have been new coronavirus outbreaks all over Spain, the most severe are concentrated in the north east of the country, in Catalonia and Aragón – regions that are closer to the UK than to Lanzarote. Everyone involved in tourism is understandably livid. It must be incredibly frustrating for them.
Ángel Vázquez, Lanzarote Minister of Tourism Promotion, is desperate to get the message across that Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary Islands are not a high-risk holiday destination – far from it:
“British tourists are a huge source market for us and are always welcome in Lanzarote. The change in the UK Government’s travel advice will have a strong impact on our tourism sector which has already been hit hard over the last few months. We are looking forward to British visitors being able to visit us again without having to quarantine upon their return to the UK. To that effect, we want to emphasise the low case rates both in Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary Islands, which is much lower than in mainland Spain.
Based on data published on 29 July, the Canary Islands currently have an accumulated infection rate of just 2.41 per 100,000 people (based on data over the last seven days). This is an extremely low figure; indeed, much lower than the rate in most European countries where no travel ban is in place.
Additionally, in Lanzarote we have our own detection protocol for possible cases which continue to be very few. This detection protocol aims to detect positive cases or infections both at the airport on passenger arrival as well as during their stay in their opted accommodation. This protocol has recently demonstrated its effectiveness meaning that UK visitors can have complete confidence and a guarantee that we can offer a rapid and rigorous health response.
For this reason, we are deeply saddened by the travel advice and the decision to make quarantine mandatory for those who visit the island on their return. We feel it is an unnecessary measure given the evolution and epidemiology of the crisis on the island and will have a detrimental impact on our tourism and hotel sector.
The UK is a great source market for us and that is why, in the last weeks and months, we have invested a large amount of resources in our tourism sector to restart operations safely. Prior to these measures announced by the UK government, around 50% of our hotel operations had returned and we were confident of increasing this figure in the coming months.
For all of the above reasons, we urge the UK government to reconsider this quarantine measure for the Canary Islands, in the confidence that they will understand the objective reasons for our request.
We also want to thank the UK travel companies that support Lanzarote. We will support our UK travel partners to the best of our abilities during this difficult time in the hope that very soon we can welcome British visitors once again.”