Since the beginning of the pandemic of coronavirus, the Dutch government advises against its citizens to travel abroad. The vast majority obey. But throughout this week, 180 Dutch people are exposed to the sun at the RIU Gran Canaria hotel, a four-star hotel of the Spanish-German chain in Maspalomas. They are not afraid that the authorities will scold them: it is your own government who has organized this trip eight days.
It is one of the many ‘field lab’ tests that the Netherlands sets up to measure possible infections at events with the public, from concerts and congresses to football matches football and, like this one, tourist trips. Last month there was already an exit to the Greek island of Rhodes, where the group of travelers could not leave the hotel for the whole week.
At 40% occupancy
“They also asked us to close the hotel, to minimize the risks, but I told them nothing about that, that this is not a real test, that if you want to do it well, tourists should go outside, and mingling with other people, ”says Maurice Damen, RIU’s sales manager at Canary Islands. In addition, this week other guests are also staying at the hotel, Spanish and from other countries. There is space, with 738 rooms and 40% occupancy.
More than half of the Dutch tend to spend their summer holidays abroad, with Spain as the second preferred destination after France. But last year practically everyone stayed in their own country. So there is a desire to travel. When the registration for the charter to Gran Canaria was opened, 68,000 applications were registered.
“We feel like we won the lottery”
“We feel privileged, it is as if you won the lottery,” says Peter and Petra Schoon, both 52 years old, who like everyone else. have had to pay 800 euros per person, all inclusive. “We travel a lot. Last year we had to cancel a Caribbean cruise and a stay in Jamaica and Florida. ” They do not have fear of contagions. “Right now, the risk in the Netherlands is much greater than in the Canary Islands. And all of us who got on the plane had to have a negative CRP ”.
Due to this requirement, two of the applicants stayed ashore in Holland. And this coming Friday, at the hotel, the 180 pass a PCR test again before returning Saturday home. They should not comply with more regulations, only those that exist in the Canary Islands and in the hotel itself: the masks on – although not for sunbathing or bathing – and a curfew at 11 pm.
But that is already paradise for them, go to one of the large terraces on the Paseo de Meloneras and have a drink until late at night. In the Netherlands, the terraces of the bars – the interiors have not yet opened last Tuesday after five months of closure, and must close at six in the afternoon. In addition, with rains and temperatures of 10 degrees, spring still does not reach there.
“It is the glory”
“Just being able to get out of the room I’ve been working in for the past 15 months for a week is the glory,” says Femke, 30, who works as a computer science. The first two days were spent, like almost all, at the edge of the hotel pool. “But I will rent a car to see something of the island as well,” he says.
He prefers not to have his last name put in the newspaper; After the first trip to Rhodas, several participants who explained their experiences received harsh criticism on social media. With the hospitals still full many people still do not welcome this type of trip. In the Netherlands, infections by covid they are still above 600 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, six times more than in the Canary Islands.
Jordy Pijl, 25, is by the pool with his mother. He says that he has not received reproaches, nor from his co-workers: “I just finished my career as a Medicine and I’ve been working in a hospital for the last year, in oncology and surgery. But everyone sees good that I have signed up after such a hard year. They envy me and everything. ”
In Maspalomas they see the experiment in a positive way. “Here we live on tomatoes and tourists, nothing more,” says Maurice Damen of RIU. The tourist balance in the Canary Islands is as sad as in the rest of the country; in winter and spring it is also usually the preferred destination of many Europeans. Between November 2019 and February 2020, 5.1 million tourists arrived on the islands, a year later, at the same time, there were only 684,000. Next to the hotel where the Dutch are staying there are two other large ones that remain closed.
This will surely be the last traveling test of the Dutch authorities. If Europe approves the covid ‘passport’ to travel, tourism companies will already be able to organize their own charters, although in Germany they already do, for example. But in a trickle, and they do not quench the thirst of the tourism industry in Spain.