SPAIN will bounce back to becoming a first-choice sun and sand destination for British holidaymakers this summer, the country’s tourism chiefs have predicted.
Tourism minister Maria Reyes claimed a fortnight ago the country would begin to open up to international travellers at the end of spring.
Spain’s Secretary of State for Tourism yesterday reinforced the idea Britain’s favourite holiday destination will be back on the road to recovery by summer.
Fernando Valdes told Costa Blanca-based Spanish daily Informacion: “We’re putting all our efforts into making sure we have a decent summer from a health and tourist point of view.
“By summer we want to see a gradual recovery of international tourism beginning with our European neighbours.”
Insisting the ‘sun and sand’ tourism model that has turned Spain into a leading world holiday destination had a good future ahead of it, he added: “Spain has a lot to offer in terms of diversity and heritage and we need to develop our range of tourism products as a complement to our sun and sand product.
“But it is a champion in the sun and sand tourism model and aims to continue being so and this government is going to continue to support it.”
The UK has been Spain’s most important foreign tourist market for decades after it began to open up to northern European holidaymakers as a sun and sea destination under former dictator Francisco Franco.
Spain first became Britain’s favourite holiday destination nearly 20 years ago.
In 2018, 18 million Brits picked Spain for their holidays, way above second and third-placed Germany and France with around 11 million tourists each.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez claimed last month the country would become the “beacon of the resurrection of tourism".
He also appeared to signal Spain wouldn’t be in a position to open up to foreign tourists until the end of summer when 70 per cent of its own population had received their Covid jabs.
His tourism minister subsequently sounded a more optimistic note.
Mr Valdes insisted: “We are among the eight EU countries with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rate and above nations like France and Germany.
"We still aim to have at least 70 per cent of the adult Spanish population vaccinated by summer.”
The UK is one of the leading countries in the world for the vaccine rollout, with more than 10m people receiving their first dose already.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary previously predicted that Brits will be back on Spanish beaches by the summer.
He said, once the vaccination reduces the number of coronavirus-related deaths: "We expect to see a very strong return of British families travelling to the beaches of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece in relative safety this summer thanks to the vaccine programme."
Mr O'Leary added: "I think [there will be a] strong return to travel and normality for the travel sector by the end of 2021."
Brits could be the first tourists to return to Spain due to the success of the vaccine rollout – Pedro Homar, director of the Palma Tourism Board, said UK holidaymakers could be back in the Balearic Islands as soon as May.
He told Telegraph Travel: "With the rate in which the UK is rolling out the vaccination, we are confident that the UK market will be one of the first to return to Palma.
"In terms of timings, we expect the UK market to return from around May onwards."
Brits can't currently go abroad on holiday due to the UK lockdown and Spain's flight ban to the UK is in place until February 16.
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