The Canary Islands are a very popular holiday destination with Britons and tourists around the world. Usually, the islands are inundated with tourists each summer hoping to soak up some sun and sand. However, now the islands are insisting that foreign tourists – including Britons – have to take a COVID-19 test before they travel to the islands.
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The local government said the measure will be expensive.
However, the government has indicated that hoteliers and airlines might be willing to team up with the public sector to help pay the bill.
Vice-president of the Government of the Canary Islands and Minister of the Treasury, Román Rodríguez said people need to fly with the least possible risk.
He said: “We need people who get on the plane to do so with the least possible risk of infecting others or becoming infected.”
The Canary Islands emerged relatively unscathed from the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the globe.
The Canaries have only recorded 160 deaths since the crisis began.
Tourism chiefs have said that because of the country’s low death and case rates, they want the islands treated like a “world safety lab”.
They are also hoping that the Canaries will be one of the first regions open to tourists if Spain decides to opt for a phased basis.
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Mr Rodriguez said in a video call with the Spanish government that there needs to be measures in place for “air health security”.
He added that economic activity in the Canary Islands is highly dependent on air traffic and “we need that mobility to be safe.”
Mr Rodriguez also said that carrying out the tests was essential as using masks would not be enough.
He also said that removing middle seats on planes and social distancing is not possible economically.
The vice president considered that tests at source are technically possible and, although they are expensive right now, the private sector – hoteliers and airlines – would be interested in seeking coordination mechanisms with the public sector to make them possible.
He added: “If we reduce the risk of contagion, we will quickly regain people’s trust, which is the key to activating air mobility.”
So far, hoteliers have backed the move who have pointed out that 35 percent of the GDP in the Canaries is linked to tourism, as well as 70,000 jobs in hotels and apartments.
Because the Canary Islands are predominantly a tourist destination, Mr Rodriquez has asked the European Union to treat the Canaries differently when it comes to the distribution of resources.
Tenerife received the most visitors out of all the Canaries last year with almost six million visitors.
Gran Canaria came in second with 4.3 million holidaymakers last year.
The travel and tourism GDP amounted to 16 billion euros in the region in 2018.
The Canaries are just off the northwest coast of Africa, meaning that they are perfect for winter breaks.
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot
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