Will we manage to have a more normal summer?
Just as we have managed to celebrate the festival of Sant Jordi with a certain normality, which has boosted civic morale and helped rebuild an economic sector - the book sector - that needed an injection of optimism to focus on recovery, the objective now is to face the summer with health guarantees to reactivate tourism, on which the economic viability of Catalan society is fairly dependent. In Catalonia in 2019 there were more than one million tourist places (22% of the total in Spain and 2.5% of those in the EU) and that same year visitor spending rose above €25bn, most of which came out of the pockets of foreigners (84.7% of the total). The sector accounted for around 15% of the Catalan economy. With the pandemic, last year all this literally collapsed.
This summer should be the start of the recovery. For this to happen, two things are needed. The first, and essential, is that progress is made on group immunity to covid-19. It seems that a good course has finally been set to achieve this. If there are no new obstacles with the vaccines and the current rate vaccine administration is accelerated, we can reach the middle of the summer with reassuring percentages. Giving confidence to citizens, and in turn to visitors, is essential. In this sense, however, we must also be clear that we will still have to wear masks and keep social distance over summer. It will be far from a return to precovid normality. Only if things are done well, if we are responsible and rigorous, will we manage to receive international visitors with guarantees of health safety for them and for us all. And this is where the second important condition comes in, on which different European countries have already started to work: the laissez-passer. It is crucial to enable these cards to ensure that tourism can take place without the transmission of the virus. Nobody wants to risk a new wave. It is the countries of southern Europe, major recipients of tourism in summer, and Catalonia and Spain in particular, who are the most concerned by this intiative. In fact, Catalonia is the leader in tourism within the Spanish state, with the entire coast and Barcelona as main poles of attraction (the city went from 8.5 million overnight stays in 2019 to less than 2 million in 2020).
In the coming weeks it should become clear how the laissez-passer will work, who will issue it, under what conditions it will be obtained and for which countries it is valid. The UK, Italy and France are already working out the details and its mechanisms. In principle, the idea, as promoted by the Brussels institutions, is that this "green digital certificate" (this is its provisional name) includes the person's identification, whether they have been vaccinated, whether they have been tested for covid-19 or whether they have antibodies because they have been infected. Each state would add its own specifics. The Ministry of Health has announced it for June. There is no time to lose: the success of the tourist recovery depends on it.