Some destinations are using the pandemic to rethink tourism management, but it may not be possible for every place to effectively hit "reset."
Quiet and birdsong have replaced the sounds of thumping music and fun-loving tourists in the popular Mallorca resort of Magaluf, and the prospect of another potentially lost season is weighing heavily on locals.
Along the deserted main drag, bars that usually throng with mainly British tourists to the Spanish island are shuttered. Some have put up hand-made paper signs saying “we love tourists” and “we will be back in 2021”.
“It’s very strange, it’s like a ghost city,” said a 35-year-old Italian tourist from Florence, who gave only her first name, Virginia. She and her friend Helena were among the few tourists to make it to Magaluf for a spring holiday as much of Europe grapples to get coronavirus under control.
“We just have to wait for better times and meanwhile we enjoy the peace,” said Helena, 29, a designer from Milan.
But for locals, peace and quiet doesn’t pay the bills.
“The truth is we’re all a bit sad … All this is a bit of a mess,” Maria Asun, 59, who has lived in Magaluf for 40 years and run La Vila ice-cream parlour for seven, told Reuters.
“Lots of people can’t pay their rent, have no work… they closed in October of 2019 and haven’t been able to reopen because there is no tourism, there is nothing,” she said.
A smattering of locals sit outside the ice-cream parlour wearing masks. For sale signs dot holiday apartment balconies. At a time of year when the town should be busy with spring tourists and gearing up for the summer crush, there is uncertainty over what tourism will take place this year.
Britain currently bans all foreign travel, except for work, education or health reasons. The government is to review that in April and possibly allow it from May 17.
“Magaluf relies heavily on British tourism so it goes without saying it’s been heavily affected,” Nikki Boskett, who has run the Gemini hair salon in the town centre for five years, told Reuters. “It’s been quieter for sure, many businesses are far more hesitant about opening.”
The eerie silence that hangs over Magaluf highlights just how hard the pandemic has hit the country’s tourism sector.
Foreign tourism to Spain plunged 80% last year to 19 million visitors – its lowest in half a century – as global pandemic restrictions dramatically curtailed international travel.
“Right now we’re usually focusing on opening up, all the hotels are preparing for Easter, all the bars are open and lots of people are working around here,” said Maria Asun. “Now, you go out onto the street … and there is no one.”
(Writing by Jessica Jones Editing by Frances Kerry)
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