Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez invited foreign tourists to discover the charms of the Spanish countryside, launching an ambitious plan to save the country's dying villages.
The 10 billion euro ($12.18 billion) plan aims to save rural life in a nation where 42% of villages are at risk of depopulation compared to a European Union average of 10%.
"I would especially like to emphasize that (tourists) should enjoy the rich rural tourist attractions that our country has, one of the jewels in the crown," Sanchez told a meeting in Madrid of mayors from rural towns.
From Monday, Spain will open up to tourists from outside the EU deemed low-risk for coronavirus, notably Britain and Japan, who will not be required to show a negative test.
And from June 7, Spain will let people from anywhere in the world who are vaccinated against COVID-19 enter the country, hoping to galvanize a recovery in the devastated tourism sector.
Improving digital connectivity for rural holiday companies is part of the plan, which also envisages expanding sustainable tourism.
The left-wing government plans to increase internet access in rural areas, improve transport routes, offer grants for young entrepreneurs and small businesses and launch a rural Erasmus educational scheme.
Sanchez said that Spain's 47 million people occupy just 12.7% of the land, compared to 67.8% of the territory populated in France and 59.9% of German territory.
Many rural villages have an average density of less than 12 people per square kilometer, the government estimates.
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