The onset of Coronavirus was completely unprecedented and changed the world as we know it. Uprooting many things we held dear in the skip of a heartbeat, the pandemic bought even the mightiest countries to their knees and the world slowly retreated to their homes in an effort to stop the virus. The travel industry changed almost overnight; airlines canceled all major flights, many international tourist destinations closed down all their attractions, hotels started exercising caution with their bookings, and travelers scrambled to cancel trips and get refunds. This begs the question; when will we be able to travel again?
Humans are a very resilient species and we always fight the long fight. After almost 4 months of absolute uncertainty, the travel industry has finally evolved to adapt to the new situation. Although governments and health experts have advised tourists to stay put for a couple more months, many countries and tourist destinations are beginning to ease their lockdown and border restrictions. Here's our global travel reopening tracker where you can find countries that are opening their borders first, attractions that are mandating online tickets, sanitisation protocols across tourist hotspots and other post-pandemic travel trends.
When will we be Able to Travel Again?
With stringent safety protocols and precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, attractions now give much more importance to health and hygiene in their premises. In countries that have opened their borders after an extended lockdown period, attractions are mandating online tickets, strict sanitization protocols, and the use of masks.
Even though over 500+ attractions around the world have now already reopened, international travel restrictions are still active in many countries. With crossing borders not being an immediate option, travelers are now looking to explore domestic destinations due to the lower risk attached to them. Weekend getaways and road trips to neighboring states have are the crowd favorites right now and attractions around the world are revamping to cash in on the new trend.
As world travel slowly returns to “normal” in terms of the freedom to travel, we try to answer the question on everyone’s mind; when will we be able to travel.
International travel has been quite the rollercoaster over the past three months. For the first time in recorded history, almost 90% of the world’s population now lives in countries with extended lockdowns and travel restrictions. However, everything does not seem to be in limbo. A tenuous easing of travel restrictions has begun as the world adapts to the new normal and prepares for its first summer in this new era of the COVID pandemic.
When will Borders Open Again?
Ukraine, South Korea, Lao PDR, Jamaica, Montenegro, and Ecuador have already reopened their borders to tourists from all countries. However, all visitors will have to undergo a compulsory mandatory 14-day quarantine period irrespective of whether they test positive or negative.
With the number of cases slowly flattening, an emerging Post COVID-19 travel reopening trend is that of countries starting to open their borders to tourists from low-risk and safe countries where the effect of the Coronavirus has started to dwindle.
Almost 32 top tourist destinations including France, Spain, the United States of America, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the Philippines are on a path to recovery and have opened their borders to tourists from select countries. A mandatory 14-day quarantine is compulsory in almost all countries, with certain exceptions to countries from the European Union.
Countries of the European Union are expected to reopen their internal borders this month, with international travel possibly reopening by the later part of July. In Asia, Singapore and China have begun permitting essential travel between the countries, provided that the travelers have a certificate stating that they are free of the Coronavirus, use a contact-tracing app, and don’t deviate from their itinerary. Iceland has also decided to open its borders to tourists from around the world but plans to test everyone for the virus at the airport, before giving them access to the country. Here's a detailed table for your reference:
Travel Restrictions in Top International Destinations
Here's a list of all international destinations that have now opened their borders to the public, albeit with some restrictions:
Travel Restrictions in Popular Asian Countries
Japan has been successful in curbing the rate of infection so far and restrictions were lifted in 39 of the 47 prefectures on May 31. By June 19, the country lifted most of its domestic restrictions. Although Japan has opened its borders to visitors from select countries, only residents of the country, healthcare workers, diplomats, and tourists coming from unaffected countries are allowed entry as of now. There will be a compulsory 14-day quarantine period for all visitors irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. .
Hong Kong is one of the few countries that managed to bring the pandemic under control through effective quarantine measures and social distancing. Even with only 1300 total confirmed cases, Hong Kong is yet to open its borders to countries outside of China. Currently, only Nationals of China (only premier business executives) can visit Hong Kong. There will be a compulsory 14-day quarantine period for all visitors irrespective of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. .
The United Arab Emirates, home to one of Asia’s biggest travel hubs Dubai, was one of the worst-hit countries with over 53,000 confirmed cases. The recovery rate has been on the rise over the past month, with over 42,000 recovered patients.Currently, international travel is allowed outside of UAE with a travel permit from June 23 and anyone can visit the Arab country from July 7. The safety protocols in UAE are unique: visitors have to submit a COVID negative test before entering the UAE. Visitors who were not able to get a test should get it done at the airport and self-quarantine until the results come back.
With less than 9,000 cases, Malaysia managed to control the pandemic pretty well. Even though the weekly number of cases has dropped to 71, the country is yet to open its borders to tourists. According to the government, Malaysian international borders are closed for all travelers until mid-July. In case any emergency flights are allowed through, all visitors will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, even if they had earlier tested negative for the virus.
Travel Restrictions in Popular Europen Countries
With only 3,000 cases reported last week, France has overcome the first major wave of COVID cases and is now looking to reopen its borders. However, there are several restrictions on international travel as only citizens from countries belonging to the European Union, Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the Vatican, and the United Kingdom are currently allowed to enter France. Public places, restaurants, and a few tourist attractions have also reopened in an effort to boost domestic travel.
Being one of the worst COVID-affected countries, Spain had initially struggled to keep a check on the pandemic spread but has now managed to reduce the weekly infection rate to a little over 2000. This has helped the country reopen its borders to people from countries belonging to the European Union, however, there is a blanket ban on all other countries for now. A few public places and tourist attractions are currently open to bolster domestic tourism.
With less than 2000 cases in a week, Italy successfully managed to flatten the curve of rising COVID cases and is now inviting domestic tourists to explore their country. Nationals belonging to the European Union, Andorra, Monaco, Vatican City, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and San Marino are the only people currently allowed to visit Italy. Museums and galleries reopened on June 3 with strict social distancing regulations and limited capacity.
Germany has now reopened its borders to residents of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and the United Kingdom after the country managed to flatten the curve and bring down the weekly infection numbers under 4000. Public places and tourist attractions have now reopened with strict safety protocols. Cafes and restaurants reopened on June 5 and bars have reopened in some states with limited operations.
Travel Restrictions in Australia and New Zealand
One of the few countries that managed to successfully fight the COVID crisis, Australia, is yet to reopen its international borders. Even with a meager infection rate of 190 weekly cases, Australia has allowed access only to residents of the country, healthcare workers, and diplomats. However, public places and beaches have reopened with strict rules and limited capacity. Bars and restaurants also reopened on May 15 in some areas with limited operations. Australia plans to open its borders to New Zealand by the end of July and other countries by October.
One of the few countries to have reported less than 2000 cases, New Zealand has been praised time and again for their strict health and hygiene rules. New Zealand’s border is closed to most travelers and entry is strictly controlled. All arrivals are tested for COVID-19 and a 14-day managed quarantine or isolation is mandatory. New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, and residents with valid travel conditions returning to New Zealand are the only people who do not need approval from the Immigration Department before traveling.
Travel Restrictions in Americas
The USA has been struggling to manage its exponentially increasing COVID cases and has hence only opened its borders to people for select countries. Residents of Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Canada (by air) are the only people allowed to visit the USA, but any travel to the USA is strictly not recommended until the cases reduce drastically. Further, only public spaces like libraries and parks and a few restaurants have reopened with limited capacity since the initial lockdown.
Canadian International borders are now closed for all non-essential travelers until further notice and residents of the country, healthcare workers, diplomats are the only people allowed to enter the country. However, domestic tourism is being encouraged as public places and a few tourist attractions reopened on June 3. Bars and restaurants have also reopened with limited capacity.
Travel Bubbles - The Future of Travel
With countries slowly recovering from the aftermath of Covid-19, the future of travel depends on a new phenomenon called a “travel bubble”. A feasible travel bubble involves connecting countries or states that have shown a great level of success in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic domestically. This bubble for countries/cities will allow members of the bubble to restart travel and tourism and trade ties with each other.
Reinvented by the Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania bubble, a travel bubble allows residents of the countries to travel freely by rail, air, and sea without (or with minimal) quarantine measures. While members of the bubble can travel immediately, new visitors joining the bubble will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period before starting their voyage.
The rules and regulations are pretty straightforward; to freely travel in the bubble, a person should not have traveled outside the member countries in the past 14 days, should not be infected with coronavirus, and should not have come in contact with anyone who has been coronavirus infected. These conditions have to be met with relevant documents as well.
Impact on Global Tourism
For the global tourism market which saw a quick fall over the past few months, the potential of travel bubbles is enormous. If the countries that have managed to fight the pandemic well can engage in travel bubbles, it could account for around 35 percent of the global GDP. This could also allow citizens of the countries to rekindle tourism within their bubble in preparation for the delayed summer season.
Currently, the top possible travel bubbles are that of the European Union and Australia - New Zealand.
Top Emerging Travel Bubbles
Arguably the biggest travel bubble, most member countries of the European Union have allowed international visitors from other members. France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Poland, and Portugal are part of this travel bubble. Furthermore, residents of the United Kingdom are also allowed to travel past borders.
Residents of the United Kingdom can travel to and fro from Ireland. Even though the UK is not part of the European Union anymore, quite a few countries in the EU now allow access to UK residents, albeit with strict restrictions. However, nationals from all countries are welcome in the UK, provided they agree to a 14-day quarantine.
The most anticipated travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand could soon become a reality as July draws to a close. The travel bubble will be formed on a measured state-by-state basis and could exclude Victoria, due to a surge of Covid-19 cases in Melbourne.
Apart from the China - Hong Kong travel bubble, nothing has been confirmed as of yet. However, a Pearl River Delta travel bubble is in the works. This will include Hong Kong, Macao, and some mainland Chinese cities. Tourism officials in Vietnam have also expressed interest in forming a travel bubble includsing a few Asain countries like Japan.
Attractions Reopening Around the World
Following over two months, most of the top global attractions have been closed in an effort to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic. Some of the attractions have never been closed for such a long duration in over 80 years, but things are getting better. As of July 2020, over 500 attractions have reopened their gates to tourists, albeit with stringent health and safety protocols.
Important attractions and cultural hot-spots of the world, including theme parks, museums, and attractions in countries such as Japan, Australia, and Italy have started to open up with new ticketing and safety guidelines. Even though some landmarks are yet to be opened, many have announced a reopening date in late July or early August.
Access to most of the attractions is now dependent on the host countries’ quarantine protocols and travel bubbles. Europe has over 300 attractions open currently and is expected to recover its tourism industry as a majority of global travelers hail from the continent. With the option for global travel restricted, it is expected that domestic tourism within the bubble will flourish over the summer season.
However, apart from members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and a handful of other countries, visitors from other countries will have to wait longer to visit the attractions. Some of the top attractions in Europe that have reopened are Sagrada Familia, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Vatican City.
Asia comes second on the list with over 100 attractions reopening its gates to domestic visitors. However, the travel bubbles are sporadic, and only a few international visitors can visit the attractions due to the quarantine protocols and travel restrictions. However, in countries like Hong Kong, which have effectively managed the pandemic, restrictions have been lifted conditionally.
Hong Kong Disneyland reopened in June after being closed to the public for over a month, attracting a huge swarm of visitors over the first two weeks. Dubai also reopened to tourists on July 7, with domestic tourists and a handful of global tourists rushing to get tickets to its top attractions, including the Burj Khalifa.
In the west, America is yet to mitigate the aftermath of the pandemic and is not expected to open its borders for tourists in the near future. The only respite for domestic travelers is the reopening of the Yellowstone National Park and other open public spaces, albeit under strict social distancing norms. Mexico has opened its attractions to domestic travelers in an effort to regain its global tourist dominance. Though international borders are closed till the end of July, public places and tourist attractions reopened on June 1, along with bars and restaurants.
Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand managed to fight the pandemic well and have now opened almost all of their top attractions to the residents of the country, However, apart from residents, only healthcare workers, and diplomats are allowed to enter the country. Public places, restaurants, bars and beaches have also opened with strict safety rules and limited capacity. Australia is expected to open its borders to New Zealand in July in an effort to create a travel bubble.
Safety Protocols at top Global Attractions
The novel coronavirus has had a detrimental effect on the tourism economy and to revive it, attractions have now made it mandatory to follow certain protocols to stop the spread of the pandemic and protect ourselves.
An analysis of the safety measures across all open tourist attractions found that masks and reduced capacity were now a mandatory norm apart from regular sanitization protocols and temperature checks. Almost 50 percent of tourist attractions have made it mandatory for visitors to wear a mask under all circumstances. Apart from this, the ticketing system of almost all attractions has now been made online, reducing the amount of physical contact between visitors and employees.
Rise of Domestic Tourism
As countries ease lockdowns, travel within domestic boundaries is being encouraged before international travel so that enthusiasts can go on weekend getaways and short trips not too far from home. Outdoor spaces have more room for social distancing without much constraints leading to more than 70% of nature camps, hiking trails, adventure sports, national parks and beaches having reopened around the world.
While only 30% of nature parks & wildlife reserves have decided to reduce the visitor capacity, over 70% of museums & aquariums have limited the number of visitors allowed
As more and more travelers refrain from visiting international destinations in view of the recent coronavirus crisis and the subsequent uncertainty regarding the safety of air travel, domestic tourism will gain popularity. In the short-term, travelers will turn their focus to local destinations and will plan more trips within the border of their own countries. This can be seen in Google search trends across the globe.
Localization of travel and its implications
With the localization of travel, travelers who would have earlier chosen to visit an international destination will now choose to stay within the country. As a result, countries with a large international travel base will see a huge rise in their domestic tourism, as compared to the previous years.
Destinations that were previously unknown will now be discovered with more and more travelers searching for local experiences. This trend can be substantiated with the increase in the search rates of certain RV rentals, car rentals, adventure travel companies, and campgrounds websites. These businesses will benefit the most from this sudden rejuvenated interest in outdoor experiences. For example, we can see that despite the travel industry being hit the hardest, companies like Outdoorsy (RV rental) and Hipcamp (Camping experiences) have been seeing a surge in the number of people visiting their websites.