TIME

Sink or swim

From the hotel terrace where he ate breakfast, Phil Pelzer could almost pretend nothing had changed. Yes, the maître d’ had aimed a temperature gun at his head before allowing him near the buffet. And he wouldn’t usually serve himself eggs in gloves and a mask.

But the friendly waitresses still addressed him in halting German, and the sun still warmed his pale, tattoo-covered arms. For Pelzer, a plumber from Alsdorf, Germany, who has long taken his annual vacation on the Spanish island of Mallorca, the important things were still in place. “There’s still sun, there’s still sand,” he said. “Maybe it’s not quite so much fun as before, but it’s still a holiday.”

On that wan enthusiasm rests a continent’s hopes. Pelzer and his family were among the 400 or so German tourists who traveled on June 15 to Mallorca as part of a pilot program run in collaboration between the tour company TUI and the Balearic Islands’ regional government. It was originally conceived as a way for both the vacation hot spot and the tour company to test their preparedness to once again receive visitors after months of lockdown. But even before the Pelzers boarded the plane in Düsseldorf, Spain had decided it couldn’t afford to wait to learn the results. On June 21, spurred by both economic necessity and its neighbors’ rush to open, the Spanish government formally ended its state of emergency and opened its borders again to European tourists.

As much of Europe abandoned its mandatory quarantines and followed suit, the pilot program was watched across the continent with acute interest and no little anxiety. TUI had sold out the two flights in a matter of hours. But would that level of interest be sustained? Would it be enough to offset the loss of American and Asian tourists whose return might still be months away? Would it be safe for both the visitors and the

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