Recent news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic mostly isn’t pretty. Cases are on the rise in more than half of US states. Infections are surging in parts of the world that had seemed to avoid the worst of it early on, such as in Latin America. And isolated outbreaks in Asia are leading to renewed restrictions. Meanwhile, according to the latest UN World Tourism Organization data, 65% of all destinations worldwide remain completely closed to international tourism. And yet that is a marked improvement over a couple of months ago.

SPAIN HEALTH VIRUS ECONOMY TOURISM coronavirus COVID-19 Schengen
A member of the local civil protection security wearing a face mask patrols a beach in Lloret de Mar on June 22, 2020 as beaches reopen in Spain following a national lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. EU member state citizens and those from the passport-free Schengen zone were allowed freely into Spain, with no 14-day quarantines required. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

The UNWTO points out that 48 destinations around the globe have now started to ease restrictions. More are on the way, and Europe is currently leading that charge. In fact 37 of those destinations, most of which continue to show much improved COVID-19 numbers, are in Europe. Interestingly, the Middle East remains the region most closed off, with 92% of destinations shut to visitors. Africa follows close behind with 85%, and the Americas stand at 76% with borders shut.

Europe is opening up, but not to everyone

It’s expected that as of July 1 we will see a much broader opening of the European Union’s external borders to outside visitors, though some key countries are expected to be left off the list. Europe is eager to open to as many potential summer visitors as possible, but reports indicate people from the US will have to wait. That will come as a blow to many Americans who’ve been waiting to plan a transatlantic getaway for this summer.

Italy Rome Trevi coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic tourism Schengen Europe travel
People take selfies in front of Trevi Fountain on June 19, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Italy has reopened its major tourist attractions and loosened travel restrictions, after months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a bid to reboot the tourism industry that accounts for around 13% of the national GDP. (Photo by Simona Granati – Corbis/Getty Images)
 

Apparently around 50 countries will get the nod to resume leisure travel to Europe, but the list is still being finalized, with a decision expected by early next week. What remains to be seen is whether certain members of the European Union will continue to bar entry to most travelers even as European authorities seek to open up in a unified way. If so that could quickly make things complicated for open borders within the continent.

So where else can we travel?

The list of destinations around the world where a tourist can go is set to gradually expand throughout July. Specific conditions and requirements do vary quite a bit, however, and in many cases hotels and other sites like museums will require the now-standard list of masks, temperature checks, distancing and more – meaning no one should be counting on a visit to a foreign country looking and feeling like it did before. Nevertheless, here is a partial list of some upcoming openings.

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A scene from Bermuda, which opens back up to tourism from July 1. GETTY

Bermuda will reopen to visitors on July 1 provided they arrive with proof of a negative test for COVID-19 and follow other health guidelines before and during the trip. This is similar to what Iceland is doing, except in that case visitors must take a test upon arrival.

Georgia (the country, not the state) also plans to resume accepting visitors on July 1. At this point we don’t have the full details about whether this will be a complete opening or not, but all signs point to yes.

The Maldives initially planned an extensive list of restrictions, testing requirements and new visa fees, but then reversed course almost completely – no doubt having realized that the restrictions would dissuade everyone but the most committed potential visitor. From July 15 visitors can enter without testing or quarantine unless they are showing symptoms. Time will tell whether that was the right choice, but it is sure to increase tourism spending either way.

Sunrise behind a tropical island in the Maldives coronavirus COVID-19 tourism
Sunrise behind a tropical island with palm trees, sandy beach and emerald sea in the Maldives GETTY

Jamaica reopened to tourists on June 15 and those with livelihoods tied to the industry are no doubt glad for it. However within days of doing so 14 new coronavirus cases were reported in the country, all traced back to arriving flights from the US. That hasn’t changed the policy so far, but it highlights how difficult it can be for tourism economies to get back to normal.

The United Arab Emirates is opening piece by piece, with Dubai leading the way, having announced it will be open as of July 7 for those who can present a negative test result or test negative upon arrival. Abu Dhabi is also reportedly gearing up to allow tourism, though no date has yet been set.

Egypt will be reopening to visitors from July 1, but only for stays in Red Sea resorts such as Sharm-el-Sheik and Hurghada. Egypt continues to have a relatively high rate of infection, so big cities like Cairo are off the list for now.

EGYPT-TOURISM-HEALTH-VIRUS coronavirus COVID-19 tourism
Mask-clad EgyptAir crew check the documents of travellers preparing to board an Airbus A320neo aircraft on the tarmac at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, in the Red Sea resort city at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula on June 20, 2020. (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Hawaii is the latest to announce an opening plan, with visitors to be allowed in as of August 1 as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours. Hawaii authorities are naturally eager to revive the very important tourism industry there, and they say they think this will do enough to keep infections down that it can work. They point out that Alaska has been trying out a similar scheme and infections there have not surged so far.

What is the future of global tourism?

This recent piece from The Guardian does a great job of exploring the ways in which tourism both helps and hurts popular destinations around the world. In recent years the focus on over-tourism and the environmental impact of the travel industry has received quite a bit of focus, and the current situation has offered an unusual opportunity to step back and evaluate what we want international tourism to look like. It has also forced many places to consider whether relying on tourism for 20 or 30% of GDP is sustainable in the long run, pandemic or not. In the meantime, it seems plenty of people are itching to get on flights and visit foreign countries despite widespread global uncertainty around the coronavirus and its path going forward. For those involved in the travel and tourism industries, it will no doubt be a summer unlike any other.

Source: Forbes

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