Sun-starved Britons flood to Spain's Mallorca after restrictions eased

PALMA, Spain, June 30 (Reuters) - Beach-craving British tourists flocked to the Spanish island of Mallorca on Wednesday after London added the Balearic archipelago to its “green travel list”, boosting hopes for a better tourist season after a disastrous 2020.

Tourists stepping onto the sunlit pavement outside Palma de Mallorca’s airport expressed relief and gratitude to be back in the sunshine.

The lifting of restrictions by Britain means holidaymakers will not have to quarantine on return from the islands, as they still have to with the rest of Spain and most other countries.

The quarantine rule had scared away many, but not all.

“I booked two weeks ago and was prepared to quarantine for 10 days afterwards. We were just very lucky,” said Georgia Dover, 20.

Unlike neighbouring Portugal, where COVID-19 cases have spiked lately, fanned by the highly contagious Delta variant, Spain has seen only a moderate increase in the past days and the infection rate remains near its lowest level since August. (Graphic on global cases and deaths)

Still, citing a worrying rise in infections in Britain, Spain said on Monday that incoming British tourists must provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination after having let them in freely for a month.

Travellers from the European Union must also show a negative test.

A spokesperson for Spain’s Melia hotel chain said that in the 24 hours after Britain put the islands on the green list, bookings soared to the equivalent registered during 10 days in pre-pandemic 2019.

While a sharp rebound in tourists from Germany and France has buoyed Melia’s reservations, overall client numbers remain at about 60% of 2019’s levels, with Spaniards accounting for more than half.

The government forecasts tourist arrivals will reach 45% of their pre-pandemic levels this summer and about 54% this year. That is a steep improvement from 10% in April.

Data from airport operator Aena showed flight reservations to the Balearic Islands over the next 12 months had reached 80% of their normal levels, compared with just 46% across Spain as a whole.

Reporting by Marco Trujillo; Additional reporting by Belen Carreno, Andrei Khalip, Inti Landauro; Editing by Nathan Allen and Lisa Shumaker