During the Covid Pandemic, we have mostly been home for the past few months. At times, the mere thought of a local grocery store trip, seems challenging. The notion of leisure travel has become a distant dream, but is it in our near future?
The Current Situation
Virtual exploration has become a viable substitute for those yearning from home, but certainly not a true replacement for the everyday jet setter. This leaves us with the impossible to answer, burning question, at the forefront of the wanderlust community; “When can we travel?”
Based on varied information from world health organizations and global government leaders, the answer is mostly a hopeful, yet non-committal, “It depends.” While the world fears an upturn of virus contagion and death, it also walks a fine line to prevent further economic collapse. Some destinations rely heavily on tourism as their primary source of economic stimulus, but virus management and spread prevention remains of utmost concern.
Can We Leisure Travel in the Near Future?
The answer may be a mixture of “yes” and “no.” The reopening of tourism seems to depend on many factors, and each country and/or area is taking their own calculated approach. It may come down to which country’s passport you hold. Some main factors include:
Health and Safety Considerations
- The number of existing Corona Virus cases, recoveries, and related deaths
- The percentage of available hospital beds
- Where the area lies on the “Flattening Curve”
- Is there a phased plan in place to reopen services and spaces
- Ability to have and enforce quarantine rules for initial entry. Some countries or areas may allow people to arrive, provided they self quarantine for two weeks.
- Do officials and establishment owners have the man-power and capabilities to establish and enforce safety policies
- Fear of a relapse
- I would venture to say, that no country wants to make the mistake of opening to tourists, only to have to repeat the confinement process. They could then incur tremendous costs associated with getting people repatriated, or dealing with foreigners overcrowding hospitals and taxing supplies.
Passport and Border Considerations
- What nationalities will be permitted to enter which borders and when
- In many countries, the borders may open to their neighbors. For example, countries within the European Union will likely open their borders to each other. However, they will restrict tourists entering from other countries, outside of the EU, such as the USA, Mexico, and Canada.
- Which borders will be open and to whom
- Some countries have managed to have minimal Corona Virus cases and related deaths. They may feel more comfortable returning to the new normal. Tourism may be limited to other countries that also maintained relatively low numbers, or have successfully flattened their curve.
- Country border partnerships to restrict diverse entry
- Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, are discussing partnership. This would involve opening up the passage between the two areas for their citizens, but banning tourists beyond this. Some European and Schengen areas seem to be working on a similar plan.
- Preliminary tourism for some countries or areas may only include people who reside within that country or area for now. And within that scope, some cities and towns will open prior to others. For example, in the USA, this may vary city by city, or state to state. Restaurants may be carryout only in one place and inside dining in another.
- Staycations and traveling within your homeland, versus foreign destinations, seem like a popular solution
- Airline operations and permissions
- Many airlines have been forbidden to operate certain routes, limiting the access to many countries via air.
- Additionally, airlines have canceled service to a large number of cities due to safety and economical considerations. Seating is currently limited inflight, to allow for social distancing, rendering flights to popular destinations sold out.
- Other Transportation accessibility, such as trains, busses, metros is limited
- Once people arrive to an area, they need to be able to access transportation. Public transport needs to be capable of running safely and again, seating and/or routes may be limited.
- Cruise ship and port operations
- While some cruise lines are speaking of commencing sailing as early as July, will the public be comfortable and trust this mode of travel again
- Even if cruise ships are permitted to restart operations, individual ports have the right to refuse docking for the ship. Passengers holding certain passports may be refused Disembarking.
What the Near Future of Leisure Travel May Look Like
In the near future of leisure travel, I think we will see more people planning outdoor adventures, where it is easier to socially distance. I’d surmise that areas and attractions that naturally have fresh air experiences may have a better chance of reopening first. Travel such as camping or sailing may be realistic options. Other popular destinations might be parks, and beaches. Activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, exercising, and sunbathing seem like enjoyable, relatively low contact options.
Small islands may reopen. I have heard some countries, such as Greece, suggest that they may welcome tourism, but it will look different. Perhaps dining will only be offered outdoors, or restaurants will only have takeout. Bars and nightclubs will likely not open. Places that promote large crowds, such as concerts and festivals will probably be non-existent. Attractions that can limit entries and have a lower amount of contact areas, such as zoos, museums, and galleries may be able to operate.
While there may be some level of near future travel, many people may forego the available options in lieu of staying close to home. There are still real fears of people falling ill, not wanting to get stuck outside the country. Tourists may not want to pay for a modified experience. On the flip side, those lucky and brave enough to have a passport that permits entry, may get to visit some normally crowded places, and have them mostly to themselves.
Strategies for Tourism
Hotels and other accommodation types are announcing their plans for higher levels of sanitizing. Each place may vary in their efforts. Some policies include; lower person to person contact by offering keyless room entry and no daily maid service, and removing high touch objects from rooms. Public areas may remain closed.
Europe is looking to allow travel for citizens of the EU to participating countries within the EU starting July 24th. Greece may start entertaining visitors as early as July 1, but not if you are from outside the EU, or from Italy, Netherlands, Germany, or Spain.
Many airlines are requiring both customers and employees to wear masks. They are sanitizing more regularly. Many airlines have blocked the middle seats, and reduced the cabin capacity up to 50% to facilitate social distancing.
While travel bans and permissions are rapidly changing daily, I found some specific country’s planned tourism strategies in this New York Times article.