Author: Vicky Vamiedaki – Tourism Journalist [email protected]
A race between the tourism-oriented countries before the reinitiation of travelling and a major puzzle.
The one-million-dollar question is simple: How do we safely open our borders to the world, when we haven’t yet done so domestically?
Many countries, including Greece, are already announcing the opening of the 2021 tourist season, some having developed a plan and others sticking to platitudes. But which are more ready today, as far as planning and organising is concerned, to receive foreign travelers?
First place is awarded to Israel, which managed to have 80% of its population vaccinated by the end of March and has already initiated domestic tourism. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism announced that 2022 will be a prime year for the tourism industry and the country is gearing up to open its doors to foreign visitors. The first market Israel is aiming at are the Gulf countries, with flights to and from the United Arab Emirates already scheduled. This of course is a tourist exchange agreement since both countries have managed to vaccinate most of their population.
The Israelis and the British are a primary target for all countries, since the percentage of vaccinated people is remarkably high, and the countries are close to achieving herd immunity. Portugal rushed to announce that as of May 17, it will be open to British tourists who have either proof of vaccination or a negative test. The British government has so far announced only the gradual initiation of traveling abroad starting on May 17.
The United States also has important news regarding tourism. The US tourism industry welcomed CDC’s decision which allows fully vaccinated Americans (2 weeks after the 2nd dose), to freely travel within the country, without tests or quarantine. For those wishing to travel abroad things aren’t yet clear, since besides having completed the vaccination cycle, they will need to test 3-5 days after arrival and follow all the safety protocols. The country’s travel agents hailed these announcements as a huge step forward and requested to apply the same measures for foreign tourists, as well as to lift restrictions on cruises; something that will probably not happen soon…
Jordan announced its plans to create a virus-free “Golden Zone”, for tourists who wish to visit popular destinations such as Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum Desert. According to the government, protocols and prerequisites are being finalised and will soon be implemented.
Australia is getting ready to receive its first visitors on April 18, a year after it closed its borders. Entry rights are extended only to New Zealanders, who will be able to freely travel to their favourite destination.
Author’s comment: With the pandemic sweeping through most countries in the world and the vaccination programs showing significant delays, the future of the 2021 season of tourism remains doubtful. No country has really opened its borders yet, even for fully vaccinated travelers, and very few countries have initiated their domestic tourism. A light at the end of the tunnel comes from the vaccination planning, which forecasts that within the next few months the adult population will be safe. This highly likely scenario will produce a torrent of last-minute reservations. As of the beginning of July, we will probably be seeing the proper opening of the season, which is predicted to surpass 2020 both in arrivals and bookings, as well as revenue, paving the way for an even greater 2022 season!