Brits flying to Spain for post lockdown holidays will be greeted by miles of empty sands.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a hammer blow to the country’s tourist trade.
In Benidorm on the Costa Blanca, where the resort’s golden beaches have been roped off into small sections to ensure social distancing, tourists can have the pick of the plots.
Officials are on hand to ensure no more than four people are stretched out in each parcel of sand.
And they patrolled the beach as locals flocked to the sea last weekend.
But during the working week the sands have been deserted, with hundreds of unused sunbeds and brollies.
Brits arriving in Benidorm also have to wear face masks when they stroll along the promenade.
But they will not need them in place as they sunbathe on the beach.
In Majorca tourist officials are desperate for the UK government to lift the 14 day quarantine rule which forces tourists travelling back to Britain to self-isolate.
Almost four million Brits travelled to the Balearic Islands last year – more than a quarter of all international visitors.
So far only eight hotels are planning to open next month in the party capital Magaluf.
Hoteliers claim people are putting off booking because they fear going back into lockdown when they return to the UK.
But not everyone in Spain is desperate to see a new influx of visitors.
A fresh outbreak of coronavirus in the Aragon region of north east Spain this week has been blamed on overcrowded conditions for migrant fruit pickers.
And some are worried a flood of tourists from the UK may lead to a surge of new cases.
Spain has suffered Europe’s third highest death toll, behind the UK and Italy, but in the past week it has registered only 21 new fatalities.
Nigel Rickman, from Warrington, Cheshire, who retired to Torrevieja two years ago, said: “It is a Catch 22 situation. The country wants the tourist trade but it doesn’t want the virus back.”
His partner Claire Swift, 44, from Tamworth, Staffs, who moved to Spain 18 months ago, said: “Everyone took the virus very seriously over here. The lockdown restrictions were made into law, it was not simply advice or guidance. It was very strict and they don’t want to have to go through it all again.”
The traditional British holiday spots on the Costas are also magnets for Spain’s city dwellers.
Thousands of second home owners were stopped from travelling to the coast during the outbreak.
But they have been free to travel since the lifting of the country’s ‘state of alarm’ on Sunday.
Nigel added: “Madrid, Barcelona and other major cities were the worst affected and people are looking anxiously to see what happens when people start arriving in large numbers.”
Spanish sandwich makers have called for an end to home working because no-one is taking lunch breaks and buying their products.
Emilio Gallego, from the Hospitality of Spain association, said: “We have tourist areas without tourists and office areas without clerks and the consequence of this in some cases is disastrous.”
Mayor Toni Perez said the resort would be enforcing government legislation making the masks obligatory in public spaces where social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
Ball games will be allowed on the beaches, unlike some other resorts.
The Mayor said: “The practice of sports in areas which are normally provided on a permanent basis for beach volley and football will be allowed.
“All types of games outside of those areas will be prohibited in line with state rules.”