Let’s see now – when was that? Ah yes, April twenty-ninth. That was seven weeks ago. The British Ambassador, Hugh Elliott, had arrived in Mallorca for the first time. He met with President Armengol and Minister of Tourism Iago Negueruela. And what did he say? Well, he “couldn’t say more”. These were his words.
He could not say more about the separate treatment of the green list for Mallorca and the Balearic Islands, although he observed that the Balearic government’s request for a green list was “well founded” and he pointed out, for example, the virus sequencing capacity and “huge efforts”Made to contain the pandemic in Mallorca.
The ambassador could not say more, as he was not in a position to say more, even though he knew where the Balearics were about the traffic lights in the UK, which he may or may not have.
On Wednesday this week, he again wasn’t able to say more (although he didn’t really say it), other than having quite a few things to say about something he knows or doesn’t know. . The initial inability to say more at the end of April predated the big unveiling of the green list. So much attention had been paid to this that the BBC or Sky surely missed a tip by not broadcasting it live as an awards ceremony: “And the winners are.”
There has of course since been the Mark II Green List, remarkably similar to Green List I except for the demoted Portugal, and we are now waiting for the Mark III Green List. Therefore, we have to go through exactly the same process that we went through before Mark I and Mark II. The ambassadors are unable to say more, other than to suggest that the claims for separate treatment for the Balearics are well-founded (something Hugh Elliott roughly repeated on Wednesday) and therefore raise hopes and expectations that may or may not be met.
Besides the ambassadors, we have figures from the Balearic and Spanish government highlighting diplomatic efforts, low incidence rates, improved vaccination, etc., etc., etc. The fateful day will duly arrive, the rewards envelope will be opened and the final winner will include a Pacific Island that no one has least intention to visit. Naturally enough, we all hope that Mark III winners will include islands that we are much more familiar with.
In this regard, the Netherlands may (or may not) have provided guidance to the UK government. The Balearics and Canaries, it was announced earlier this week, have received separate treatment. The islands were placed on the Dutch yellow list, the equivalent of green but without a test requirement for the return. President Armengol has done her best diplomatically not to upset the UK by saying that she understands there is an “internal” problem caused by the current health situation.
Meanwhile, his predecessor, José Ramón Bauzá, told the European Parliament that there were “national political interests” behind British travel policy.
Bauzá is certainly not the only one in this regard. EasyJet Spain and Portugal boss Javier Gandara is just one suggested that the green vs. orange (plus red) lists are all aimed at encouraging UK holidaymakers to take vacations.
Environment Secretary George Justice more or less confirmed this as official policy when the other day he urged the public to vacation at home. Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary supported him: “It’s not a normal summer. International travel opportunities are going to be more limited, so why not take advantage of all that this country has to offer. Yes, and they were saying pretty much the same thing last summer.
Regardless of what Hugh Elliott had to say about the advantages of the Balearic Islands in terms of geographical location, the Mark III Green List, according to Paul Charles of the PC agency, will not be favorable to the islands because the British government has no intention of opening other trips until the end of July. And it will be, according to him, “a very political decision, not at all based on data”.
Charles offered a rather different perspective from the simple economic perspective of the stay. There are ministers, he suggests, who “have aligned themselves to protect their future careers and potentially benefit from a next cabinet reshuffle”. This means sacrificing travel abroad, even if it also entails risks for thousands of jobs.
Charles believes there is an internal battle, with Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps being trampled on by Matt Hancock and Priti Patel. It has been several weeks since Shapps said he was in favor of an “island approach”, and it has indeed been a mystery to understand why he seems to have forgotten to have said that. Maybe we know now.
José Ramón Bauzá hinted at another way of approaching the politics of all this when he said that the UK was “the main source of tourists to Europe”. The Germans may have Something to say about it, but Bauzá was not wrong to point out the tourist muscle of the United Kingdom.
Is it just a matter of politics? Armengol’s diplomatic language limited her to saying that “objectively” the Balearics should be on the green list. She knows very well that the United Kingdom has the aces and that there is a government with its specific European agenda. If Charles is right, it will be the Mark IV Green List at the earliest, and the British Ambassador will no doubt be asked for his comments on a Mark IV listing, although he cannot say more.
Tourist ball park figurine
Beyond the speeches on the green list, not a week goes by without forecasts regarding tourist attendance this summer and the turn given to them. As an example this week, we had a report regarding the scheduled number of airplane seats for Spain. These indicate, a source suggested, that there will be a “massive influx” of tourists from July. But that depends on the definition of the massif, because the scheduled sieges are down by nearly 40% compared to the period June-August 2019.
The Spanish government, according to Secretary of State for Tourism Fernando Valdés, forecasts between 14.5 million and 15.5 million foreign tourists between July and September, 40% less than in 2019. The deadline is different, but these two forecasts coincide, that of Valdés does not take into account an increase in the workforce if the United Kingdom places Spain on the green list.
Forty percent decrease means 60% of 2019, and that’s pretty much the stadium that was planned for Mallorca.