With Spain one of the first countries to welcome Brits back after the Covid-19 lockdown, Madeleine Barber travels to Gran Canaria to see what tourism looks like on the Canary Island now
The familiar thud of the aeroplane’s wheels making contact with the runway is even more welcome than it has been previously as I sit in my window seat feeling eager to set foot in my destination: Gran Canaria. It’s just days since the Foreign Office lifted its ban against all but essential travel to Spain for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is the first press trip to the Canary Islands since the UK’s four-month lockdown, hosted in conjunction with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
As of 26 July, the UK government reinstated the ban against travel to Spain but has excluded the Canary Islands from this, with travellers still able to visit but required to self-isolate for two weeks on return to the UK.
Spain’s first case of Covid-19 was recorded in the Canary Islands on 30 January, but this doesn’t mean the destination is the worst hit in the country by a long shot. Between the eight islands there have been 2,483 cases, which amounts to 0.12% of the Canary Islands’ population and, when compared to the UK’s 295,726 cases (0.44% of the population), the stats show the archipelago has managed the spread very effectively. This is backed up by the fact the destination has reported just 162 deaths from Covid-19.
“Of course one life taken is one too many, but we have a very well equipped public health service and, compared to other places, we can’t complain about our stats,” says Angel Victor Torres, president of the Canary Islands, at the press conference I’m attending during my first evening on Gran Canaria.
He reveals that there’s a plan in place to inject a “massive” fund into the Canary Island’s tourism sector, which is welcome news considering tourism is responsible for 35% of GDP and 40% of employment.