Wednesday, December 2

Antigens, an opportunity for tourism?

Living on the crest of the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic, without having stopped fighting and fighting for more than nine months, it never ceases to surprise us how little planning or medium-term strategy is being done for tourism from all the institutions: starting with the European Union, going through the Government of Spain and ending with the different autonomous governments that have constitutionally transferred powers in tourism and that must address an unprecedented crisis.

The autonomous communities are right now focused on controlling the health situation, and we understand that this is their priority responsibility at this time, but it is no less true that from the tourism sector we are witnessing with impotence an unfavorable outlook for the coming months.

Right now we need to have plan A, which is the one we have and that does not take us beyond tourism than the misery that we are managing. But we need to have plans B, C and even D already programmed and studied that will take us until the spring of 2021 with an at least more hopeful business scenario.

For a government there can be nothing that has an interest higher than 20% of GDP. Nothing that could be more useful than 300,000 jobs that are at risk for the Valencian Community. So, regardless of the health strategy, the priority for all levels has to be to reactivate tourism in all its derivatives and progressively and compatible with the health situation.

We have not yet come out of the astonishment and stupefaction that the Government’s announcement caused us to require a negative PCR for all travelers entering Spanish airports. Measure that, moreover, is not part of any European agreement or measure that is taken in exchange for other even more restrictive ones such as quarantines. This is what is called adding more fuel to the fire instead of putting it out. Not only are we not going to promote tourism, but we are going to make it even more difficult and expensive for the few who have the courage to visit us.

I believe that we can and must demand from our managers a greater imagination and dedication in designing what should be safe tourism planning for the coming months.

Let’s give ideas. We’ve had good news about vaccines for two weeks. The good news is that they are ready and almost ready to be marketed. The bad thing is that it will still take months or even a year to protect the population from this threat, so the contingency plan for tourism living with covid-19 throughout the year 2021 remains unchanged.

It is on this horizon of positivity that we have to focus our point of view: designing what would be the safe framework for tourist reactivation in Europe, common for all EU countries, including the United Kingdom.

We know how this framework should be, which goes through unavoidable criteria: diagnostic tests, traceability, capacity control, social isolation measures, masks, schedules, hospitality equipment and, if all else fails, a complete system of attention to tourists who could be infected. .

Incorporating diagnostic tests into the tourist “itinere” must be reasoned with criteria of effectiveness and efficiency: they must be economically accessible tests and right now PCRs are not. They should be the least invasive tests possible, and above all they should be rapid tests. And PCRs don’t meet these criteria either. We must explore alternatives and be very up to date with all the news from the pharmaceutical industry that will happen in the coming weeks.

If only 0.07% of the positive cases detected so far come from travelers from other countries, it does not seem that borders pose a great risk. If in Madrid they have been able to control and bend the contagion curve using antigen tests, it seems that it could be a test modality that has its tourist usability.

If we complement all this with a professional visitor traceability system, with technological tools, and we close it with a protection program for potential positive tourists, at no cost to them, with accommodation, medical care and repatriation with guarantees, we will send to the market a complete message of security and solvency as a country.

Spain is a tourist leader in the world, and Spain must also lead this process for tourism. Quite the contrary of what is freely believed, tourism is not a problem for our economy. It has been the solution for seventy years and will continue to be so in the future. A large part of the European economy is at stake if tourism is not reactivated in the coming months.

So we are going to use our strength to build the future and focus on this strategy for the medium term. That tourism is ready to be a reality in Spain and Europe before spring 2021. There we must focus our efforts and we can only ask public officials to do so as well.

From now on Benidorm and the Costa Blanca (as a peninsular “island”) or the Canary Islands (as an island phenomenon) we can serve as “in vitro” laboratories: both destinations located in territories with little incidence of the virus, and both tourist destinations in high demand by our clients Europeans and Spaniards during the winter. Why not do a coordinated pilot experience to assess how it works? Why not open corridors with our faithful Spanish and foreign visitors? From the private sector we are ready to face this new challenge with enthusiasm and responsibility.

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