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A senior Spanish government official says he expects British and other vacationers to return to Spain within weeks as the country races to revive its tourism industry amid the COVID-9 pandemic.

Deputy Minister for Tourism Fernando Valdés told The Associated Press on Wednesday that falling coronavirus incidence rates and accelerating vaccine rollouts in some countries will enable Spain to drop travel restrictions early next month.

Some people “from countries outside the European Union will be able to come — for example, from the United Kingdom, which is in a good epidemiological situation — without any restrictions,” Valdés said in an interview.Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the spread of Coronavirus travel by train in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

“And we are going to begin to accept citizens that can present a vaccine certificate,” he said.

In 2019, Britain sent 18 million people to Spain, the most of any country. Spain is one of the world’s top tourism destinations.

Negotiations between EU governments and EU lawmakers to introduce COVID-19 certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the bloc this summer are ongoing.

A deal is needed by end of this month to ensure the system will be up and running by the end of June, as EU officials hope.

Valdés said Spain intends to move quickly, as the government seeks to revive a sector that in pre-pandemic times accounted for 12% of annual gross domestic product, but plummeted to just under 6% amid lockdowns and travel bans last year.

“Spain will have the digital certificate ready in June. We hope that (the EU) regulation will be approved on the June 21,” he said.

“But from the first week of June, Spain will be able to validate certificates on its borders and expedite certificates to its citizens.”

Spain is focusing its new promotional campaigns on its key markets: the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other EU countries, which in 2019 made up 75% of visitors.

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