Spain will allow British holidaymakers into the country without the need to provide a negative Covid test from 24 May.
In a move aimed at restarting the country’s battered tourist industry, the Spanish government has announced that visitors from the UK will be free to enter Spain “without restrictions and without health requirements”. The same applies to visitors from Japan. All arrivals are still required to fill out a health form.
Speaking at a tourism fair in Madrid on Friday, the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said: “Spain will be delighted, very delighted to welcome all British tourists, and tourists from some other countries with low Covid infection rates.”
Spain is currently on the UK’s amber list, meaning travellers returning to the UK are required to take a Covid PCR test before they arrive, fill in a passenger location form, quarantine at home for 10 days on their return, and take a further two tests.
Spain’s decision to allow non-essential, restriction-free travel contrasts with the stern warning from the UK Foreign Office, which continues to advise against non-essential travel to the country, with the exception of the Canary Islands.
The earliest departures to Spain with Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, are from 7 June, except for the Canaries, which are available from 27 May.
The same applies to Thomas Cook’s Spain packages.
“There isn’t a clamour for holidays to amber list destinations. Portugal remains our most popular destination at the moment,” said spokesman David Child.
This week Boris Johnson insisted that nobody should travel to the 170 or so countries on the amber list except in the case of an emergency.
He told the House of Commons on Wednesday: “You should not be going to an amber list country unless for some extreme circumstance such as the serious illness of a family member. You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday.”
However, airlines are selling flights to amber list countries – on Monday easyJet is operating flights from Gatwick to Lanzarote, Málaga, Ibiza, and Palma Mallorca, for example – and have been lobbying for popular summer sun destinations to be added to the green list since it was announced on 7 May. The number of flights to Spain increased dramatically after international travel resumed on 17 May.
According to aviation data analyst Cirium there were 181 UK-Spain flights between 3 and 16 May compared with 969 between 17 and 30 May. Flights to Greece also leapt up in the same period.
In a Skyscanner survey carried out this week, Spain was top of the list of places consumers would like to see added to the green list, followed by Greece. The mounting calls led the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to warn people not to pin their hopes on the green list being extended.
But travel expert Paul Charles of the PC Agency believes Spain’s decision will have a domino effect on other European destinations, increasing pressure on the UK to allow unrestricted travel. “You’re going to see more countries [lift entry restrictions’] as they all follow each other. You’re going to see more start to let the British in and that will put pressure on the prime minster.”
He added: “Consumers are voting with their feet and booking trips to Spain; they know the rules, they know it’s not illegal and they know they have to self-isolate when they get home.”