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Spain hopes tourism can return as the Germans return to Mallorca

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(Corrects the surname of the hotel manager in paragraph 9 of Grunold)

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (Reuters) – Spain hopes foreign tourism could return to half its pre-pandemic levels this year, the government said on Monday as a wave of German holidaymakers hit Mallorca’s white sand beaches after Berlin eased restrictions on returnees.

International tourism in Spain plunged 80% to 19 million visitors last year – the lowest since 1969 – as coronavirus travel restrictions did their damage to the world’s second most visited country.

Maybe the ideal goal is … to get half of the tourists we had in 2019, said Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto at an event held by the Europa Press news agency.

Estimates by think-tank Funcas show that the contribution of the tourism sectors to the Spanish economy fell between 4% and 5% last year from around 12% in 2019, risking many businesses in regions such as the Balearic Islands.

With the rate of infection falling in Spain, Germany lifted quarantine requirements for passengers returning from the Balearic Islands last week, causing tens of thousands to jump on last-minute flights and attracting mixed reactions from locals.

I am happy because we live from tourism and we have to open up, but on the other hand I am worried, said Palma de Mallorca resident Maria, who did not give her last name.

The 41-year-old banker said she was concerned visitors were not respecting the restrictions as a group of unmasked German youths passed by her on the beach, apparently filming a promotional video.

When I saw so many people without masks … it scared me a little.

On the other side of the island at the TUIs Robinson Club hotel, general manager Tina Grunold said the company aimed to guarantee a great holiday while ensuring guests adhered to strict safety rules.

We are extremely happy that we are allowed to welcome around 220 visitors today … During Easter we expect an utilization rate of 75%.

In addition to economic concerns, many Spaniards are irritated that foreign tourists may fly to the islands when most people in mainland Spain stay stuck at home due to a travel ban.

In Germany, national and regional leaders meeting Monday night to decide on the next round of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic are considering seeking quarantine for all returning travelers. This meant that the jump in tourism in Mallorca was short-lived.

(This story corrects the surname of the hotel manager in paragraph 9 of Grunold)

Reporting by Inti Landauro, Anita Kobylinksa and Marco Trujillo; Written by Nathan Allen; Edited by Ingrid Melander and Gareth Jones

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