The president of the Valencia region is to meet Britain’s ambassador to Spain next week to press for the region to be added to the UK’s green list of acceptable travel destinations.
Valencia, which includes the resorts of Benidorm and Alicante on the Costa Blanca, claims to be the safest place in Europe, with a Covid infection rate of 29 cases per 100,000 inhabitants compared with Spain’s overall rate of 140 per 100,000.
On Friday the Spanish government added the UK and Japan to the list of countries whose residents can enter without presenting a negative PCR test for coronavirus, but Spain remains on the UK’s amber list meaning only essential travel there is advised and all arrivals from Spain face restrictions.
The regional government says Ximo Puig, the Valencian president, will meet Hugh Elliott on Monday to argue for an agreement so that British visitors can travel to the region without having to face quarantine on their return to the UK.
“The generalitat [regional government] wants the UK to treat us as a region, rather than treat Spain as a single territory which has a Covid average that is much higher than in Valencia,” a spokesperson said.
For several weeks the Valencian hotel and tourism organisation Hosbec has been pressing the regional government to take the initiative, especially since Portugal was granted the green status that Spain has been denied.
“Portugal is part of the Iberian peninsula and the Valencian community can offer an identical option because it’s a controlled area that can function like an island so that tourists don’t go to other parts of the country,” said Toni Mayor, the Hosbec president.
Puig has announced that the region will issue its own vaccination passports to residents.
Tourism is vital to the Valencian economy and in 2019 Britons accounted for 29.7% of the region’s 9.5 million visitors, rising to 40% in Benidorm and the Costa Blanca.
The Valencia hotel sector says it has racked up losses of €1bn during the pandemic and only 16% of its workforce is actively employed. The absence of tourists is estimated to have cost the region a total of €11bn in lost income in 2020.
As well as being a popular tourist destination, Valencia has Spain’s second highest British resident population after Andalucía. According to Spain’s national statistics office there about 78,000 British residents in Valencia, of whom 69,000 live in Alicante province. Britons, many of them pensioners, outnumber Spaniards in some parts of the Costa Blanca.
The British Business Association in Benidorm said this month that more than 100 mostly British residents were dependent on its food banks.