Spain has opened its borders to vaccinated travellers from all over the world, as well as people with a negative Covid-19 test, hoping an influx of visitors will revitalise its all-important tourism sector which has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Spain is a safe destination," Health Minister Carolina Darias insisted, adding that the country was "in the process of reclaiming its global leadership in tourism".

Non-vaccinated Europeans - who can currently enter Spain with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours - will be able to take a cheaper antigen test instead.

The Irish Government is still advising against all non-essential international travel.

However, people will be able to holiday within Europe when Ireland joins the EU Digital Covid Cert system from 19 July.

Jose Luis Prieto, president of Spain's travel agents' union (Unav) is hoping for a "spectacular recovery".

According to him, over the last few weeks tour operators in Britain, France and Germany - Spain's three main markets - have been receiving a large number of inquiries.

However, in a setback, the UK has not yet removed Spain from its list of at-risk countries, meaning British travellers will have to quarantine on their return home as well as pay for expensive Covid-19 tests.

The British normally make up the largest contingent of tourists to Spain - in 2019 over one-fifth of Spain's 83.5 million arrivals were from the UK.

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Britain's decision to keep Spain on its amber list was "disappointing", Ms Darias said.

Against the backdrop of uncertainty, major travel operator TUI has cancelled all its flights to Spain until 13 June. The UK will not revisit its decision for another three weeks.

Regardless, those in the Spanish tourism sector are still hoping for a summer surge of visitors.

Across the country, from the Costa del Sol to the Canary Islands, hotels and restaurants are reopening after months of closure, and airlines have restarted routes dropped during the height of the pandemic.

Malaga airport was expecting around 20 different flights this morning alone, from places such as Berlin, Lille, Frankfurt and London.

Spain will also begin allowing cruise boats into its ports again from today.

Heavily dependent on its tourism industry, Spain was one of the western economies worst hit by the pandemic, seeing a 10.8% fall in its GDP in 2020.

The Spanish government has set an objective of drawing 45 million travellers by the end of the year, but by the end of April the country had only seen 1.8 million visitors, according to official statistics.