In an extraordinary reversal of an earlier announcement, the Spanish tourist board in London has withdrawn the promise of opening up to unvaccinated British visitors.
On Wednesday the tourist board said Spain had opened up to all UK travellers with immediate effect, saying unjabbed visitors would be able to enter with a negative pre-departure test.
But eight hours later travellers were told this was incorrect, and that the announcement resulted from an error of interpretation of the official state bulletin.
UK travellers aged 12 and above are still required to show proof of being fully vaccinated or a certificate of recovery (dated no more than 180 days previously).
Pedro Medina, deputy director of the Spanish tourist office in the UK said: “We apologise unreservedly for the miscommunication earlier today which was due to a misunderstanding of the new entry requirements.”
The only exception is for those aged 12 to 17 (inclusive) who can show a negative Covid test (PCR or similar) taken within the 72 hours before arriving in Spain.
For vaccinated travellers, the Spanish tourist office said “If more than 270 days have passed since the final dose, certification of a booster vaccination is also required, except for teenagers aged 12 to 17 inclusive.”
One less significant change has been confirmed: children under 12 and those travelling to Spain with an NHS Covid travel pass no longer need to complete Spain’s health control form prior to arrival.
To take advantage of the “previous infection” option, the traveller must have a recovery certificate “issued by the official authorities”. The test must have been “carried out by qualified personnel” – so a self-test result will not be valid. Official certificates are regarded as being valid for 11 to 180 days after the first positive diagnostic test result.
Spain is the most popular destination for British travellers. In 2019, the nation welcomed 18.1 million visitors from the UK – an average of 50,000 arrivals per day.
Traveller numbers collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic. At the start of 2022, Spain was imposing tough requirements – insisting all arrivals aged 12 or over were fully vaccinated.
For thousands of British families, that rendered February half-term holidays impossible.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, described the Spanish reversal as a “spectacular blunder”.
It is not clear what attitude airlines and holiday companies will take to unvaccinated people who booked trips to Spain in light of the mistaken announcement.
The Independent has asked British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and Tui whether they will allow customers to cancel or change their bookings.