I’ve just spent nine weeks in Majorca, moving all around the island including Palma, Alcudia, Sa Rapita, Cala Llombards, Soller, Pollensa, Binissalem, Arta – even over to Formentera.
I’ve been coming to Majorca for more than 25 years, both for holidays and business, and never have I seen the island – an iconic travel destination – in such a sorry state.
No matter where I was, the heartbreaking scenes were consistent – deserted beaches, boarded up shops, hotels closed for business, empty cafes, hundreds of taxis parked up off-site at the airport, and empty parking lots that would normally be filled with hundreds of coaches.
Pretty much every resort was like a ghost town, with an eery feeling of tumbleweed as we walked around.
In August, peak season, the island would normally be absolutely buzzing with tourists – but not this year.
Every year, Majorca welcomes 10 million tourists to the island, filling the 150,000 beds to maximum capacity. For Majorca alone, tourism accounts for 44% of GDP. When you include related sectors, this increases to 85%.
The authorities and business owners here are taking Covid-19 very seriously. It is compulsory to wear face masks even when walking down the road, and they must also be worn in all shops.
Every shop and venue we went into had hand gel at the door, with people ensuring everyone complied. At supermarkets, staff would often wipe down trolleys before you took one – again, doing everything possible to keep people safe and well.
The only public spaces where face masks are not required is on the beach, while exercising, and when in bars and restaurants.
Compared with the UK, the precautions are much more extensive, are being complied with by the majority of people, and are actively enforced in all areas by authorities and business owners alike.
The irony of all of this is that the infection rate in the Balearics and Canaries is significantly lower than in the UK, and the precautionary measures in place so much more rigorous.
These factors make the blanket quarantine, which include the Balearics and Canaries with the same restrictions as Spain, a complete nonsense.
Everyone agrees public health has to be the priority, and I would never suggest otherwise. However, a more nuanced, targeted approach is needed, based on facts and using creative and technology solutions rather than blunt instruments.
One size should, most definitely, not fit all. Majorca is just one example of the harsh reality on the ground, but this is a global sector issue.
Travel and tourism accounts for more than 10% of GDP both in the UK and globally. In the UK, there are four million people working in the industry and in related sectors.
Already, tens of thousands have lost their jobs, and we have already seen businesses fail, including Shearings, STA Travel, TrekAmerica and Destinology.
The latest view is that a further 1.3 million jobs are at risk in the travel and tourism sector, as discussed during a debate in the House of Commons on 11 September, unless drastic action is taken.
The #SaveTravel campaign led by TTG was heartwarming to see. If we are to save our beloved travel industry, and the many talented people working in it from financial hardship, we need to have targeted responses and industry-specific support from government.
The travel industry was the first to be affected, has been the sector hit hardest, and will be the last to recover.
The end of furlough in October is on all of our minds, and will be a disaster for travel businesses and airlines.
I truly hope we manage to get a targeted response from government that allows travel businesses to stay afloat during the tough winter ahead.
This is a great industry, and I know we will prevail in the long-term due to the indomitable spirit, skill and talent of everyone in the industry – but we can’t afford to wait! Let’s act now to #SaveTravel.
Jeannette Linfoot has been in the travel industry for more than 25 years, holding senior roles with Tui, Thomas Cook, First Choice and Saga. She now has a portfolio of businesses under Jeannette Linfoot Associates and Busfoot Property.