The United Kingdom once again includes the Balearic Islands in its list of unsafe destinations

The United Kingdom once again includes the Balearic Islands in its list of unsafe destinations

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The United Kingdom once again includes the Balearic Islands in its list of unsafe destinations

Dozens of tourists arrive at the Palma de Mallorca airport on July 1.ENRIQUE CALVO / REUTERS

The joy has barely lasted three weeks. The Government of the United Kingdom has decided to remove the Balearic Islands from its green list and incorporate them back into the amber list. The measure has caused irritation in the tourism sector, because it once again calls into question one of the favorite destinations of the British for their holidays. On this occasion, however, the decision is softened by the fact that Downing Street will allow newcomers from a country on the amber list, where Spain is located, who have the full vaccination schedule to avoid mandatory quarantine. The British Minister of Transport, Grant Shapps, announced on Wednesday that the new restrictions will take effect from four in the morning of next Monday.

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Some 200,000 Britons are currently in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza or Formentera, after the islands were given the green light as a tourist destination on June 30. Many of them, between the ages of 18 and 30, have not yet received their second dose of the vaccine. “The policy applied by the Government has to change. It is not at all useful for consumer confidence to change the color of a country in just two weeks. This traffic light system is not working, ”said Paul Charles of PC travel agency. In this way he expressed the confusion and irritation of the sector in the face of the ups and downs of the Johnson Government, something that they already experienced with the entry and subsequent exit of Portugal in the list of safe countries.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport has explained that, from the beginning, it was warned that the Balearic Islands were joining the green list, but within the so-called watchlist. That is, with the precaution that he could change his status at any time. Since then, the British Government assures, the numbers of infected in the Balearic Islands have doubled (this Wednesday the cumulative incidence in the region stood at 408 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days). Among other changes made by London, the entry on the green list of Croatia, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Taiwan stands out.

The departure of the Balearic Islands from the list of safe areas was an open secret due to the reputational damage of the macro outbreak on the islands and the increase in infections. However, the expected impact is limited, according to the Spanish tourism sector, and what would have been an earthquake weeks ago is now not too worrying. The reason is that, also from Monday, UK residents vaccinated with a full schedule without mandatory quarantine on their return, as well as minors without immunization, will be able to travel to the destinations on the amber list. In other words, the majority of the British population will be able to spend their holidays in the Balearic Islands or in other destinations in Spain without strong restrictions. “It is like being on the green list because it does not apply to minors and 66% of adults already have the complete vaccine schedule,” the British ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, explained on Monday in Madrid.

Reputational damage

What the decision does have is a negative effect on the image of the Balearic Islands and Spain as a safe destination. In fact, it adds to the reluctance already exposed by the other two major outbound markets for travelers: France and Germany. In both cases it has gone further and, although no restrictions have been placed on mobility for the moment, its citizens have been discouraged from traveling to the country due to the increase in infections spurred by the delta variant. This has not yet had an impact on cancellations, but it has slowed the number of sales by 20%, according to Exceltur.

The United Kingdom, for its part, is giving a break and will allow the majority of the population to enjoy holidays outside its territory, for example in Spain, if they are vaccinated. An oxygen balloon for the Spanish tourism sector that is cautious, since it does not yet feel the boom expected in reservations. Among other things because everyone is still pending the evolution of the health situation: if it goes wrong again, the restrictions of the last months will return. A scenario that nobody wants to hear about.