Kate McWilliams, managing director of Lotus Latam, says Foreign Office advice came as a surprise to the PR and representation firm’s many Spanish clients
Like many companies across the UK travel industry, our business is heavily focused on the UK outbound market to Spain and its islands.
Representing a large number of Spanish destinations and hotel groups, we are aware of the scale of the impact this change of government advice has both on the UK and Spanish travel sector.
Based on the evolution of the pandemic in Spain’s mainland and the islands, we had hoped that people visiting the Balearic and Canary Islands would be excluded from the mandatory quarantine.
The implementation of a blanket approach and introduction of UK Foreign Office (FCO) advice against all but essential travel to the whole of Spain was a huge surprise, and devastating for many of our clients that rely on British tourism, as well as for the UK travel industry that operates to Spain.
It’s very upsetting to see the impact this is having on both British and Spanish businesses. Over the last 24 hours, I have received a number of desperate messages and calls from small tourism operators in Spain asking what they can do to bring back British visitors and calling for support from the industry. Others that planned to open their hotels in the coming days and weeks are now saying that is not going to be viable.
In the last few weeks and months, Spain’s tourism industry has invested a huge amount of resource into ensuring a safe reopening for tourism. In the Balearic Islands specifically, the city of Palma, in Majorca, had implemented an app connected to heat sensors to control the number of people visiting the city’s surrounding beaches and alert them to busy areas. Spanish hotel companies such as Palladium Hotel Group had invested in schemes such as their own free medical assistance for guests staying in their properties among a raft of other safety measures which come at a cost.
The outbreaks in Spain are in a few specific regions, and the number of hospital admissions and fatalities across the country are well below the UK figures. For many in the tourism industry, in both the UK and Spain, this feels like the final straw. The hope that the peak summer weeks could help to recoup some of the lost revenue from the impact of the pandemic early on in the season has now been shattered, and effectively means a whole year has been lost.
This advice seems neither fair or representative of the situation. This impulsive blanket-decision will have devastating and long-lasting consequences not just for Spain but for the wider travel industry given the impact on consumer confidence.
We stand by our industry partners to urge the UK government to reconsider this damaging advice and to step up and support the sector.