The fate of the exclusive Umiaya restaurant, in Playa del Inglés (south of Gran Canaria), has gone hand in hand with the coronavirus pandemic. The Gran Canaria businessman Francisco Acosta and his two partners inaugurated it on March 11, 2020. Three days later The bomb exploded: President Pedro Sánchez decreed a state of alarm and both Umiaya and all the hotel companies of the second national tourist destination closed down. After the lockdown, hopes of a revival resurfaced, giving the business a new opportunity in July. Two weeks later, the Government of Boris Johnson curtailed its expectations by removing Spain from the list of countries exempt from quarantine. And on September 14, the restaurant closed its doors again “after considerable losses,” explains Acosta.
Eight months later, the advance of vaccination has prompted the reopening of the premises this Friday. A few hours earlier, Downing Street announced that it included the Balearic Islands in the list of safe tourist destinations, but excluded the rest of Spain, including the Canary Islands. This is another blow to the hopes of Acosta and of all Canarian tourism. British travelers make up 37% of those who visited the region in 2019. Germany is also important, but at 19% it lags well behind. “It was another setback,” confesses Acosta. “With local tourism and only on weekends, we can hold out until September. But if then we have to close again, it will be difficult to recover “, he concludes
The Canary Islands Minister of Tourism, Yaiza Castilla, keeps, like Acosta, the hopes for after the summer. “We maintain our forecasts that in September we will have 40% or 50% of the activity of 2019 and during the winter season we will reach 70% or 80%,” he says.
The upturn in coronavirus cases in the islands, especially in Tenerife, not only worries the counselor for assuming “a stain on the brand image of the Canary Islands”, but also because it can endanger other markets such as Danish or the German, which impose a maximum cumulative incidence after seven days of 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The archipelago now has more than 56 cases per 100,000 inhabitants at seven days and more than 100 at 14 days. The situation in Tenerife, the main tourist market of the archipelago, which has once again risen to alert level 3, is of particular concern.
The vice president of the Canarian Association of Travel Agencies and Tour Operators (ACAVyT) and general director of Viajes Insular, Ignacio Poladura, assures that the decision of the United Kingdom “has not caught anyone by surprise”. “Hoteliers are not going to change their plans much regarding openings and there have not been significantly high cancellations because, anyway, English reservations were at a minimum.” It warns, like Castilla, of the domino effect that can occur if the islands are not able to control the numbers of infections. Poladura highlights, yes, a positive note in the British announcement: for the first time the Executive of Boris Johnson has differentiated between destinations, so that in the future, the Canary Islands can open up as a safe tourist market regardless of what happens in the Peninsula.
This circumstance has led Jorge Marichal, president of the Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro (Ashotel) Hotel and Non-Hotel Association, to describe the UK’s decision as “bittersweet”. More cautious has been the president of the Federation of Hospitality and Tourism of Las Palmas (FEHT), José María Mañaricúa, who has warned that, despite the fact that the Balearic Islands are in the green and it seems that the figures will improve in July, “nobody ensures that it will remain ”at these levels in August. “The uncertainty is maximum. This year the season will not be saved for anyone, regardless of whether they are in green or amber ”, he says.