Canary Islands see tourism improving in 2021, but still far below pre-pandemic levels

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FILE PHOTO: Several people walk along the beach wearing face masks, as the regional government of the Canary Islands forbids smoking without maintaining a safe distance

MADRID (Reuters) - Authorities on Spain's Canary Islands expect a partial recovery of the archipelago's tourism industry in 2021 as vaccines and testing allow for travel restrictions to be lifted, but the business will still be far below pre-pandemic levels.

The islands' regional government expects the number of incoming tourists to plummet to 5 million this year, down from 15 million in 2019, before rebounding to 8 million in 2021, regional tourism chief Yaiza Castilla told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of G-20 tourism ministers held in La Palma.

"We hope in the future we will be able to raise the forecast month after month," she said.

Ravaged by travel restrictions, the heavily tourism-dependent archipelago has set up rules both to prevent outsiders from bringing contagion and to convince visitors that travel is safe.

Located around 60 miles off Morocco’s Atlantic coast, the chain of seven islands is popular among sun-seeking northern Europeans, especially during the winter, when half its tourism revenues are generated.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Belén Carreño; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Nick Zieminski)