The pilot programme is the first so-called “safe travel corridor” to Spain.
Hundreds of mask-clad tourists from Germany landed in Mallorca for the first time since Spain closed its borders in March to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 10,000 German holidaymakers will be welcomed to the Balearic Islands, which also include Ibiza and Menorca, as part of a “travel corridor” to help balance the needs of Spain’s vital travel industry with new regulations to curb the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
The trial comes ahead of the rest of the country reopening to other Europeans on 21 June and gradually to international tourism from 1 July.
The Spanish government is under intense pressure to restart an industry that generates 12% of Spain’s GDP and provides two and a half million much-needed jobs.
Through an agreement with the German tour group TUI, other operators and a number of airlines, up to 10,900 Germans will be allowed into the Balearics.
The first German travellers, all wearing face masks, landed in Mallorca from Dusseldorf on Monday afternoon after filling out a detailed health questionnaire in Germany.
On arrival they passed signs in German and Spanish reminding visitors to wash their hands and wear masks, then queued at a distance from each other to have their temperatures read and paperwork checked by Spanish border staff also wearing masks.
Speaking ahead of the flight, one passenger said: “I am really looking forward to it. I have one and a half weeks off. I booked on Tuesday. My travel office called me and I got there immediately to book the trip. And here we go.”
Another, talking about social distancing on the flight, said: “Well, I am a bit concerned but you cannot prevent having less distance. But at some point, you have to start with a kind of normality again. Even though one has a kind of strange feeling.”
One German traveller, Russi Batliwala, who has a holiday home on Mallorca, told Sky News he feels sorry for British tourists having to wait for their day in the sun.
He said: “They got another two or three weeks yet. They come up with a new version of homesick. Homesick used to be you wanted to go home and now they are sick of being at home. Yes, I feel sorry for them, but c’est la vie.”
The president of the Balearic Islands, Francina Armengol, announced: “We will be the first region (in Spain) to open to international tourism under safe conditions”, adding that the Germans had been chosen because of their low death rate during the pandemic and as it is where most of Spain’s tourists come from.
Germans arriving on the islands will not have to go into a 14-day quarantine, but must stay a minimum of five nights.
The region is popular with German visitors and people are allowed to stay in their own homes if they have properties on the islands.
Hoteliers and businesses have welcomed the move as they have been unable to operate for months due to the coronavirus crisis which hit Spain hard.
Hotels are limited to 50% occupancy and tourists will have their body temperatures read by infra-red cameras at the hotels.
Tourists have also been warned their holiday may be much more low-key than normal, especially on the party island of Ibiza.
“Holidaymakers can be happy that the beaches in Palma have never been so empty,” said Aage Duenhaupt, a spokesman for travel company TUI.
“But there won’t be parties in the same way this year. And we have rejigged the sport offerings in the hotels. There’ll be more individual sports and no team activities.”
He added that the Mallorcan authorities will test any tourists if they have symptoms and if they test positive the guest will be transferred to another part of the hotel, while doctors will help determine when the guest can return home and how the person will be terated.
Denmark is also allowing visitors from Germany – but only if they have at least six nights’ accommodation booked – with cars queuing on the border on Monday morning
Germany, Belgium, Croatia and Switzerland fully reopened their borders with EU countries on Monday.
All of mainland France is now in the “green zone” virus alert level, meaning people can travel from France to EU countries.
President Emmanuel Macron said travel outside the EU will be possible from 1 July, depending on how other states have dealt with the epidemic.
Paris’s cafes and restaurants reopened on Monday after a surprise announcement by the president on Sunday evening.
Restaurants outside the capital had opened earlier this month and Paris cafes were allowed to serve people outside.
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Greece reopened its borders on Monday to not just EU countries, as the first international flights came into Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki where passengers will not face compulsory coronavirus tests, in a phased reopening of the country.
A ban on flights from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands has been lifted, however flights from the UK are still not allowed.
The Netherlands has said Dutch citizens can now visit 16 European nations, but warned it “won’t be as carefree” as before the pandemic.
Foreign tourists from countries where the risks are the same or lower than the Netherlands are allowed in.