Canary Islands – opening for business
The COVID-19 crisis in the Canary Islands has been very well managed. they had 109 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 compared to 481 in the UK, 516 in Ireland and 378 in Sweden. In total they only had 2300 cases and only 161 deaths. Some islands, the smaller ones, had no cases at all.
From Monday, inter island travel will begin again and flights will start at the end of June. The eight islands are set to gradually restart activity. But, that’s not all. The Canaries’ major airports – Tenerife Sur, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura – have been reactivated for international flights and are expecting to open the ‘safe corridors’ in July.
The Canary Islands will also be supporting the trials of digital passports, which will keep all medical information required in one place. They are also piloting the air bridge concept with the first press flight leaving from Madrid in mid July.
Every aspect of travel is being recast as Spain gears up to receive tourists as early as July, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. On top of this, the Spanish government is planning on lifting the two-week COVID-19 quarantine requirement for overseas arrivals on July 1st, 2020.
The borders are due to open on July 1st. The Canary islands have a plan.
Canarias Fortaleza – Fortress Canary Islands
The plan is to control the virus at its origin. This will make sure there is traceability all through the customer journey. There will be temperature testing at the origin airport and then again upon arrival. There is capacity to do 1,200 tests an hour. All visitors will be asked to take a test 48 hours before they fly. If they have a temperature then they will be asked to isolate, but if found positive, they will be given some kind of bonus to spend in the resort once they do get there.
There will be no quarantine, and no difference between the way nationalities are treated. The focus will be whether the person is sick or not.
If someone becomes unwell while they are on holiday, they will be moved to separate accommodation – probably some bungalows elsewhere, and the rest of their party will be asked to isolate too.
There has been an agreement between hospitals to provide services to everyone, mixing use of both public and private services.
Canary islands – it’s a holiday not a hospital
People want to relax on holiday so protocols will be kept to a minimum. Wearing masks will be mandatory on public transport and where social distancing cannot be done, but otherwise they will not be.
These protocols must be adopted by everyone throughout the customer journey. From the tour operators to the airlines, to the hotels and those offering excursions in resort.
Buses from the airport will carry only 50% capacity and air filters will be replaced regularly. Hotels will start with 50% capacity and the government will subsidise businesses, so that prices do not have to be raised too much.
Hotels will have to up their cleaning regimes, and manage things like all inclusive buffets and meals. Times for meals could be stretched from 6am to 11am to allow more spacing. Meals will be provided in individual portions and there won’t be any self service. More use can be made of gardens and terraces for people to be able to dine further apart from each other, outside.
There are all kinds of beaches on the Canary Islands. Where there a huge stretches of beach as in Fuerteventura, social distancing will not be a problem. Where beaches are smaller numbers will be controlled. Sunbeds will be set apart and numbers managed.
The smallest islands may well come in to their own. More private and less crowded islands like El Hierro. El Hierro aims to become the first island in the world that is 100% sustainable within four to eight years. Currently 60% of its energy needs comes from renewable sources, though last summer, for 24 days, this percentage increased to 100. With an approach that also includes the promotion of low footprint transport, El Hierro is an example for sustainable tourism worldwide.
Walking trails are already open, and events planned for October are still going ahead.
Looking after the environment
The environment has had the chance to recover during this pandemic. The skies and the waterways are cleaner, animals have had the chance to reclaim the landscape. However, the waste pollution created by discarded masks is very real. In Bangkok people have been urged to dispose of their face masks properly as they are adding to huge amounts of marine waste .
Christine explains ‘we cannot lose the momentum gained during lockdown.’ Disposable masks are out – they must be cleaned and reused wherever possible. Supplies should be sourced locally and not imported from China.
New ways of working
Working together with all partners is essential to make this approach work. It will be continually reviewed and updated as time goes on. This way of working is actually an international opportunity to trial new ways of making travel safe.
People will be changing the way they work for ever. The rental market could benefit as people might work from an apartment for a few months of the year.
Leading the way to safely reopen
Cristina Del Río Fresen is Leader of the Global Tourism Safety Lab, Ministry of Tourism Canary Islands. This woman seems to have pretty much thought of everything, taking a calm, pragmatic, joined up approach. The priority is to ensure that health and safety measures are applied to all tourists and residents.
“we are going to make sure that everything we do is done at the highest level, that all is under control, from the taxi driver or the bus, to the hotel, the restaurant or the beach. But we need these same guarantees at the source markets“.
And what if there’s a second wave – yes, you guessed it – they have a plan!
Check out my last trip abroad before lock down. Las Palmas Gran Canaria