Instead of the traditional sand and sea holidays, foreign tourists are invited to soak up the city’s charms Spanish countrysidePrime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday, launching an ambitious plan to save Spain’s dying villages.

The € 10 billion ($ 12.18 billion) plan aims to save rural life in a country where 42% of villages are at risk of depopulation, compared to an EU average of 10% .

“I want to emphasize that (tourists) should enjoy the rich rural tourist attractions of our country, one of the jewels of the crown,” said Sanchez at a meeting of mayors from rural cities in Madrid.

Starting Monday, Spain will open to tourists from outside the European Union who are classified as low risk for coronavirus, especially the UK and Japan, who do not need to show a negative test.

And from June 7th, Spain will let people vaccinated against Covid-19 from all over the world enter the country in the hopes of bringing about a recovery in the devastated tourism sector.

Improving digital connectivity for rural vacation companies is part of the plan, which also includes developing sustainable tourism.

The left government plans to improve internet access in rural areas, improve transport routes, offer grants for young entrepreneurs and small businesses, and launch an Erasmus rural education program.

Sanchez said Spain’s 47 million people occupy only 12.7% of the country, compared to 67.8% of the territory populated in France and 59.9% of the German territory.

Many rural villages have an average population density of less than 12 people per square kilometer, according to government estimates.

($ 1 = 0.8211 euros)

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This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the heading was changed.