The president of Tenerife has called on the UK government to make tests for travellers more affordable in a bid to “save the Christmas season”, claiming antigen tests on the Canary Island can cost as little as £10.
The islands’ requirement for visitors to present proof of a negative Covid test – either PCR or antigen – before checking into their accommodation is due to come into force on November 14.
Pedro Martín, president of the Tenerife Cabildo (council), said: “What really surprises us – not only the hotel sector but also the government of the Canary Islands – is the price difference between the antigen test that we have here in the Canary Islands.
“The price here is £9-£10 whereas in the UK the price might be 10 times more. We don’t really get why there is such a big price difference and it really concerns us because if people have to pay that amount of money, it’s not a good incentive. They have to calculate how much they have to spend on their holiday.”
He said the tests offered 93%-95% accuracy and called on the UK government to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical industry to source the tests at a cheaper rate, warning that travellers should be tested in the UK before departure to avoid disruption on arrival.
Visitors who present with symptoms or receive a positive result would be isolated either at their hotel or at government-owned tourist accommodation until they can show a second negative test.
Martín said the island had been gearing up to receive 150,000 to 180,000 visitors from its two biggest source markets, the UK and Germany, following the announcement of the UK travel corridor. But the subsequent England lockdown and a recommendation against travel from Germany had stalled the recovery of the island’s tourism sector, which accounts for 35% of GDP.
He said: “Every week the rules change. We are currently working on trying to save the Christmas season and January and February because this pandemic has hit us very hard.
Most of the tour operators we’ve spoken to are talking about a recovery next summer. That means the winter season will be very complicated.
“If the governments of the UK and Germany finally decide to be more flexible and allow people to come over to the Canary Islands, we think they will book last-minute flights.
“The information we’re working with is that tourists from the UK, Germany and Scandinavian countries are willing to come to Tenerife. The Covid index we have here on the island is below the average of the European territories.”
He added that hotels were operating at around 20% occupancy but some had been forced to close despite trying to remain open until Christmas.
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