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Canary Islands aim for quick tourist testing to save winter season

MADRID/LAS PALMAS, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The Canary Islands’ hoteliers said on Thursday they are in talks with regional and national authorities to set up quick coronavirus testing for tourists to try and save at least some of the winter season, after a poor summer season across Spain.

The Atlantic archipelago is a rare warm destination in winter in Europe, and that season accounts for half of its annual tourism revenues.

After a sharp drop in tourism amid worries over the COVID-19 pandemic, a UK quarantine and travel warnings from Germany, officials hope quick testing on arrival and departure could help.

“There are tests that are faster and much cheaper than PCRs. There are frequent meetings about it”, a spokeswoman of the regional government tourist department said to Reuters, referring to the widely used PCR laboratory tests.

Hoteliers said they hoped results in less than 15 minutes could help lure tourists back. But with the idea for tests on arrival already floated a few months back, they feared their plan might take time to materialise.

“It will take some time until it becomes a reality, so we are not going to save all the winter season, which begins on November 1, but at least a part of it,” said Juan Pablo Gonzalez, manager of Asotel, an association of more than 250 hotels in the Tenerife region. Only a third of them are still open, he said.

“To be positive, since we have already hit the bottom of the well, all we can do is get up and step back out,” he said.

Hoteliers have already felt the impact of a poor summer season. One hotel chain, RIU Hotels has just decided to temporarily close 8 out of the 12 hotels they opened on the islands when the lockdown ended due to the lack of tourists, especially German visitors, a spokeswoman said.

Spanish Tourism minister Reyes Maroto will meet local authorities and tourist sector representatives on Thursday in Tenerife, where she is expected to announce new measures to help the sector.

$1 = 0.8451 euros Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Paola Luelmo Editing by Ingrid Melander and Toby Chopra

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