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Canary Islands may welcome summer visitors as 'world laboratory for tourism safety'

The Canary Islands could resume domestic tourism in summer, with international visitors following from October, a new report suggests

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Pleasure island: Playa Blanca in Lanzarote

Pleasure island: Playa Blanca in Lanzarote

Getty Images/LOOK

Pleasure island: Playa Blanca in Lanzarote

The Canary Islands could re-open to Spanish visitors by August 1st, with international arrivals following in October, according to planning scenarios revealed this week.

Health and safety would govern all decisions, Tourism Minister Yaiza Castilla told local media, adding that she wants to make the islands "a world laboratory for tourism safety".

A best-case scenario would see tourism and leisure activities opening to locals this summer, followed by Spanish residents and finally international visitors, according to a Canary Islands Statistic Institute (ISTAC) report.

"If we can get hotels open in July or August, we would be walking in a good way," Canary Islands’ president Ángel Víctor Torres told El Mundo.

"That way, in October, November or December, which are good months in the Canary Islands, we can begin to receive tourists from other countries."

There were over 585,000 Irish visits to the Canaries in 2019, the Spanish Tourist Office in Dublin says, and islands like Lanzarote, Tenerife and Fuerteventura are widely serviced by Aer Lingus and Ryanair.

Restrictions are due to begin easing on the islands from May 9.

However, a worst-case scenario outlined in the ISTAC report could see confinement continuing to June 16, with an easing of lockdown in July and domestic tourism not resuming until October.

That could potentially freeze out any Irish visits before December.

Governments around the world have been grappling with how best to control coronavirus and prevent fresh outbreaks, while providing staged timetables for how and when 'normal' life may begin to resume.

The Canary Islands, a Spanish territory, are heavily dependent on tourism - with an estimated €200 million a month being lost as the industry remains shuttered, Castilla says.

Tenerife became an early focus of the pandemic in Europe, when the H10 Costa Adeje Palace was placed into lockdown after an Italian guest tested positive in February.

Despite a high caseload in Spain, however, the Spanish Tourist Office in Ireland says Covid-19 figures "are relatively good for the islands" with 2,113 cases - an an average of 98 per 100,000 people (Ireland's incidence rate is 337 per 100,000, by contrast).

"We have reason to believe [the Canaries] will be the first region to open up to tourism", said Rubén López Pulido, Director of the Spanish Tourist Office here.

To restart tourism and save the 2020/21 winter season, new protocols would be required to project a strong image of health security, Castilla added.

These could include everything from health screening to re-designing popular buffet services at resorts, she added.

"We have to transform this situation into an opportunity. We can be that world tourist laboratory and the first destination to implement these protocols."

Despite the economic pressure, the Spanish Tourism Office reiterated that health and safety were the most important considerations.

"People’s health and safety, including those of the millions of tourists who visit us every year, are the absolute priority of the Government and the decisions that are taken are focused precisely on safeguarding public health," it said.

"Spain has always been a safe destination and now more than ever we must reinforce that idea and rebuild that concept of public safety."

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