‘Our shared history goes beyond tourism’: President of Balearics urges UK to drop blanket travel ban

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The President of Spain’s Balearic Islands has implored the UK government to rethink its blanket ban on arrivals from Spain, highlighting the low case rates in the popular holiday region that includes Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza.

Francina Armengol i Socias, in an open letter shared exclusively with Telegraph Travel, said: “We have gone to extraordinary lengths to minimise the effects of the virus on our islands. We enforced a strict lockdown for more than two months in order to curb the pandemic and we only opened up again under strict conditions. We therefore wish to make clear to the UK government that we share its commitment to containing the virus, and that our region of Spain, far from posing a threat, remains a safe haven and ally.”

Despite previously being allowed to travel freely to Spain, the Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel not only to the mainland but also to the Spanish islands. The advice has forced package tour operators to cancel their holidays, while those who choose to ignore the advice (some flights are continuing to operate) must self-isolate on their return to Britain. 

Here is the President’s statement in full:

As president of the autonomous community of the Balearic region, I wish to convey to the British people, particularly those wishing to take holidays on our islands, that our destination is safe, friendly and welcoming. Furthermore, we are perfectly prepared to guarantee the security of all tourists and residents. This is demonstrated by the scientific data and the strict set of measures that we have adopted. These include the creation of safe travel corridors, the provision of hospital facilities exclusively for Covid patients, the compulsory use of face masks and adherence to social distancing.

We have gone to extraordinary lengths to minimise the effects of the virus on our islands. We enforced a strict lockdown for more than two months in order to curb the pandemic and we only opened up again under strict conditions. We therefore wish to make clear to the UK government that we share its commitment to containing the virus, and that our region of Spain, far from posing a threat, remains a safe haven and ally.

At the start of the summer and as lockdown ended in Spain, our regional government launched a pilot scheme to open up as a safe destination for tourism activity. At the moment, we have far fewer cases than in mainland Spain and a considerably lower infection rate than in the UK. We have limited nightlife and restricted large gatherings, and implemented health checks and monitoring for travellers arriving from international destinations.

I would like to refer to the ties that have historically and socially united our communities, British and Balearic. There are British families that have been visiting us for generations. Couples who met here decades ago now return with their grandchildren. British citizens, in love with the islands, live here and often divide their lives between the British Isles and the Balearics. We have a shared history that goes beyond tourism.

The demographic significance should also be noted. There are currently around 15,000 British citizens who are registered in the Balearics and, according to data from the British Consulate, the total number of residents is 22,000.

In these particularly challenging times for the world, the Balearics offer something for every visitor: excellent medical services, quality infrastructure, a natural environment of unparalleled beauty, culture, superb accommodation and gastronomy.

I would like to thank those loyal British citizens and travel industry partners for the support they have shown us, now and in the past. Currently, we are petitioning hard for the British government to establish safe corridors between the UK and our islands; connections for which no quarantine will be required, a quarantine that scientifically has been proven unnecessary in the Balearics.

Referring to Majorca’s hypnotic and irresistible beauty, Gertrude Stein said to the illustrious British writer, Robert Graves, “It’s paradise if you can stand it”. I hope, that despite this current disruption, British citizens will continue to visit the golden isles and once there, relish our paradise.

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