Countries keen to reopen for travel as pandemic recedes: Travel Weekly
Countries dependent on tourism are rushing to reopen borders and revive economies decimated by the pandemic.
The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $ 4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. Airlines alone lost $ 126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $ 48 billion this year, according to their largest trading group.
The deployment of Covid-19 vaccines gives government officials in many countries new confidence to welcome visitors. But time is critical.
“Summer is a strong season for most markets, especially Europe and the UK. We really hope to see the restrictions come down,” said Virginia Messina, acting head of the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The patchwork of rules around the world can be difficult for anyone planning a trip to follow. Cyprus, for example, has restrictions in place for countries considered to be of higher risk, requiring arriving passengers to have a negative PCR test valid 72 hours before their departure and to be retested at the arrival. They are also to self-isolate in Cyprus until their test results are released.
Constantinos Victoras, general manager of the NissiBlu hotel, located near the famous white sandy beach of Ayia Napa, said that although the infection rate in Cyprus has dropped significantly over the past two weeks, it will not be until the end of June when things are sufficiently clear. for tour operators and airlines to increase bookings.
âThe uncertainty is too great right now,â said Victoras.
Agatha and Simon Godurkiewicz, from Sweden, said they chose to vacation on the island out of fatigue with the pandemic and people just wanted to get on with their lives and regain some semblance of normalcy.
âWe are tired of the viral situation,â said Agatha Godurkiewicz. “It was panic at the start of the pandemic but it has become too much now.”
Here’s how different regions are trying to reopen for travel:
Europe has opened slowly, testing the patience of Mediterranean countries heavily dependent on tourism, notably Greece, Spain and Turkey. That is changing now, as European Union ambassadors agreed last week to allow visitors who are fully vaccinated or who belong to a now expanded list of countries whose citizens are considered safe.
EU member countries have yet to approve the changes, and it is not clear when they will take effect.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that Spain will allow British and Japanese visitors to enter the country from Monday if they have been vaccinated and people from other countries, including the United States, on the 7th. June.
Tourists are already starting to show up in Greece after authorities decided this month to accept vaccination and testing certificates from the European Union and 21 other countries.
On the Greek island of Naxos, business owners have started removing tables and chairs from storage, washing wooden decks and reopening once-crowded seaside tavernas.
“People here are optimistic and indeed there have been many bookings over the past two weeks,” Naxos Mayor Dimitris Lianos said. “There could be a big comeback in the tourist season even in the second half of the year. I dare say it.”
Croatia has also reopened – one of the few places in Europe that is easy for Americans to visit. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik this summer.
Croatia welcomes tourists who have a vaccination certificate or proof of a negative test or who have recovered from Covid-19. Photo credit: Jane Barrett / Shutterstock.com
The virus is breaking through parts of Asia again, forcing several countries to end the cautious steps they had taken to reopen.
Hong Kong and Singapore have postponed a second time a “travel bubble” without quarantine after another outbreak, and Hong Kong has extended mandatory quarantines for many unvaccinated visitors. China has set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and train stations in Liaoning province, the site of new cases this month – travelers must show proof of a recent negative test for the virus.
Thailand, which has closed its borders and successfully brought epidemics under control for most of the past year, has gradually started to allow the entry of some foreign visitors in the fall under tight controls. But the country turned the tide when it was overwhelmed by its worst outbreak at the end of March.
Bangkok has closed entertainment venues and parks, ordered more people to work from home, and banned alfresco dining. The streets of the capital and many Thai resorts are almost deserted, and people who have lost tourism-related jobs are suspicious of the authorities.
“I am very angry with the government. They should have done better,” said Narong, a worker at a Bangkok bar who refused to give his last name for fear of getting into trouble.
Middle East and Africa
At the height of the pandemic last year, the United Arab Emirates closed its borders and closed airports to travelers. The capital, Abu Dhabi, still has strict measures, including mandatory quarantines, even for fully vaccinated residents returning from some countries. But the UAE’s largest city, Dubai, has opened its doors to travelers since last July with some restrictions beyond a negative Covid-19 test.
Dubai – home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel – is wooing visitors fleeing lockdowns in Europe with open beaches, bars, hotel pools, restaurants, cinemas, theme parks and more. spas. Social distancing and mask warrants are in place.
Meanwhile, the largest Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, is not allowing tourists to enter the country. Saudi citizens, who have largely been banned from travel since March 2020, are allowed to travel abroad from this month if they have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus.
Egypt is trying to attract more foreign tourists even as it faces a new wave of infections. It exempted beaches, cafes and restaurants linked to tourist hotels from new restrictions, such as an earlier curfew and the closure of beaches and public parks during the Eid holidays. It has even reduced the cost of tourist visas, although it still requires a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Visitors to the tourism-dependent Caribbean fell by two-thirds last year to levels not seen since the 1980s. Bermuda was among the hardest hit, with an 84% drop.
A handful of islands, including Bonaire, Martinique and Montserrat, still ban travel from most countries. Elsewhere, tourists are coming back under requirements that include electronic surveillance. Some islands, including Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have created “seaside resorts” to take tourists. Cruise lines plan to move ships from the United States to Caribbean ports this summer.
The U.S. Virgin Islands have been the region’s success story this year, with arrivals falling modestly 27% from January to March – largely due to Americans being banned from other locations and able to visit U.S. territory without passport if they avoid passing through another country on the way.
Mexico has no flight restrictions, no requirement for visitors to take a test or quarantine on arrival. This has made it possible to maintain a reduced but constant flow of tourists, in particular to seaside destinations.
Mexico’s laid-back approach, however, could create a backlash in the state of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast, which includes Cancun and Cozumel and where tourism accounts for 87% of the economy. Infection and hospitalization rates are increasing, and stricter capacity limits have been imposed in public places.
“If nothing is done at this time to reduce public activities, this trend will grow and grow and grow,” the federal government’s leading man on the pandemic, Assistant Secretary of Health, warned this month. , Hugo Lopez-Gatell.
United States and Canada
The United States continues to ban most visitors from Europe, China, India, Brazil and other countries. Incoming international travelers, including US citizens, must pass a Covid-19 test before boarding flights. The State Department discourages foreign travel, labeling most countries around the world high risk.
The border between the United States and Canada remains closed to non-essential travel until June 21.
Domestic air travel in the United States is almost back to 2019 levels, but travel industry groups are increasingly impatient with what they see as too timid a response from the Biden administration to allow more international visitors.
âAs we continue to see vaccination rates rise and infection rates decline, it is absolutely essential from an economic perspective to reopen international travel,â said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of the US Travel Association.
Koenig reported from Dallas and Hadjicostis reported from Ayia Napa. Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Elaine Kurtenbach, PA editors, Bangkok; Aya Batrawy in Dubai; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Derek Gatopoulos in Athens; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Mark Stevenson in Mexico contributed to this report.