Journalist and producer based in Spain working for UK press. My focus here is safe travel and tourism in Spain. I also cover current affairs, business, architecture and rural regeneration, and work / have worked for The Guardian, BBC, FT, The Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Business Life, Reader's Digest, Evening Standard.
There is a gap of a month between the opening of borders in Europe and the proposed availability of a UNWTO-backed health passport which aims to facilitate health-safe travel by guaranteeing travellers are COVID19-free. In that period, which neatly spans the peak travel weeks of the year, tourists from ‘safe corridor’ countries will fly to popular holiday destinations, and hotels, bars and restaurants will have a chance to recover urgently needed revenue.
There will be measures in place to protect air passengers: use of masks, temperature checks, sanitised hand gels, as well as disinfection tunnels and in-flight fogging, and each country’s tourist industry has health security measures in place; Spain for example has 21 protocols covering every aspect of the tourism sector.
It’s possible that the app could help contain and prevent the spread of the virus. There are others in development which work along similar lines, and hopefully they will dovetail, but this is a forerunner. It is a mobile app which carries your medical data from vaccinations and prescriptions to COVID19 test results. The makers say it is secure, backed by a blockchain database (decentralised, synchronised, encrypted) and fully compliant with the EU data protection regulations.
The app was initiated in the Canary Islands under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism’s Global Tourism Safety Lab with input and support from the UN World Tourism Organisation’s Digital Innovation and Transformation department, and developed by the Spanish tech company Tourism Data Driven Solutions (TDDS).
The pilot flight of passengers using the HI+Card will – appropriately –be from Madrid to Canaries in July. There will also be a test flight to Ibiza. All being well the app will be made available across Europe in August. Its success depends not only on its efficacy but a wide take-up.
Meanwhile there is July. So we enter the murky waters of acceptable risk. Tourism is an economic driver in many countries, including Spain, and the staggering economic loss to national economies and the people working in the sector can easily be calculated, whereas how many people might contract the virus once travel is unrestricted is an unknown.
Testing for COVID in the week ending June 25 in Spain revealed that 60% of the new cases were asymptomatic. The Canary Islands, which had, in relative terms, a low number of COVID cases and depends heavily on tourism, intends to test visitors on arrival and departure as well track contacts during their stay. Elsewhere the least you can do when travelling is wash your hands frequently and wear a mask.