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UK 14-Day Quarantine Rule Hits Costa del Sol’s Tourism Economy After Months of Losses


©Chris Gomez, ReachExtra

The news that the British government has suddenly removed Spain from its so-called “air corridor”, effective as from the 26th of July, has caused mayhem, not just among tourists, but also in hotels who were expecting some last minute reprieve from the effects of the lockdown.

Woman stands in half-empty airport, flight cancellation | @Dima Berlin

Some of the hotels near Gibraltar had only just reopened in the last few days.

The maximum capacity of these hotels was limited, masks were made compulsory and in most indoor areas and, as previously reported in ReachExtra, changes have been made in the way traditional buffets work to ensure social distancing.

In 2019, Spain welcomed in a staggering 83.7 million tourists according to the Spanish Minister for Industry and Tourism, Reyes Maroto; a 1% increase compared with 2018.

In January 2020, Morato was optimistic for this year: “We address 2020 with optimism, because we have a strong and consolidated sector, capable of tackling the challenges ahead of us”.

2019 saw record highs of visitors to Spain, with April of 2019 seeing 7.2 million tourists visit Spain, according to the “Instituto Nacional de Estadística”.

UK Spain 14-Day Quarantine Rule Hits Costa del Sol’s Tourism Economy Flights Gibraltar
Popular Spanish tourist destination, Benalmadena | @Valery Bareta

This starkly contrasts with what was to come in April of 2020, the month now known as “the month that tourism to Spain vanished”, when Spain saw absolutely zero tourists.

Having lost millions upon millions of Euros in the first half of this year, the sudden shutdown of the UK air corridor has caused huge consternation.

The World Travel and Tourism Commission CEO and president, Gloria Guevara said this month that: “Enforcing country-wide restrictions is a blunt instrument which benefits no one; neither travellers, the local population, the economy or the Travel & Tourism sector which has been left reeling from the impact of worldwide travel restrictions.”

UK Spain 14-Day Quarantine Rule Hits Costa del Sol’s Tourism Economy Flights Gibraltar
Hotel in Estepona (2019) half grey half blue sky | ©Chris Gomez, ReachExtra

ReachExtra understands that when hotel offices and reception desks reopened on Monday morning (27.07.2020), cancellations came flooding in, not just from the UK, but from other main sources of tourism in Northern Europe as the sense of uncertainty has settled in.

The mood among staff at hotels, who have been working flat-out with reduced numbers, was becoming gloomy this morning with senior staff telling ReachExtra that they did not know whether the major hotel companies could withstand any further reduction in business.

Even internal Spanish tourism is under threat as several regions, notably Catalonia, have suffered spikes in infections in the last few days with a possibility that inter-regional travel may be restricted once more.

The regional government of the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, where there hasn’t been an increase in infections, have leap-frogged the central government in Madrid, which is responsible for foreign affairs, and made direct pleas to the British government to reopen the air corridor.

There is anger that Boris Johnson’s government appears to have picked on Spain when the figures for new infections and deaths in the UK at the time far exceed those of Spain.

What is the Situation at Gibraltar International Airport?

Gibraltar International Airport
Gibraltar International Airport | @John Cummings

The UK’s travel restrictions to Spain did not extend to the neighbouring Rock of Gibraltar, which has had only 185 confirmed covid19 cases to date and zero deaths, but there has been some confusion as to what this means when flying out from Gibraltar International Airport.

Further clarification is needed, and we expect to find out more this Friday, however, as it stands now:

The UK’s 14-Day quarantine rule does not apply to Gibraltar.

If someone travelling to the United Kingdom from Gibraltar International Airport has been to Spain within the last 14 days of their departure, they will be required to declare this and quarantine once arriving in the UK.

The Chief Minister said on Monday: “In our view that fairly reflects that the Gibraltar airport should not be used as a back door to the UK by those who have been in Spain, but that those who have not been in Spain and who are coming from Gibraltar, where the incidents of the virus is entirely low and where the virus that we have detected has indeed arrived in Gibraltar from the UK ironically, those are not going to be subject to the quarantine.”

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