Only a few other industries have felt the wrath of the pandemic as hard as the travel industry.
As nations and cities across the globe closed their borders, and governments imposed strict regulations preventing tourism establishments from operating, thousands of businesses struggled to stay afloat.
This slump in business was, however, so big that world economies started feeling the heat. In European Union countries alone, the tourism sector contributes 3.9% to the GDP and employs 5.1% of the total labor force.
As a result, restarting tourism, even partially, has become one of the top priorities for many countries across the globe.
The resumption of economic activities in different countries, along with eased restrictions at the borders, the airline industry has seen some respite in terms of cash flow. Even as airlines are operating with strict and possibly costly restrictions from various governments, tourism activities are seeing a slow yet promising revival.
The most positive example of this has emerged from the island nation of Iceland. The country, with rigorous testing and isolation, seems to have virtually eliminated the virus and has allowed normal life to resume as it did before the pandemic happened.
The country lifted all restrictions for its citizens on 15th June and has seen masses of people heading out and mingling. The country plans to open its international borders on 1st July. Visitors will be subjected to a COVID-19 test at the airport and will be expected to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols within the Keflavik airport. The test will be priced at $114 for every visitor.
However, the rest of the country’s experience is expected to be a welcome change for those coming from a country that is still under lockdown.
The rest of the European Union countries are also expected to open their international borders very soon. The UK is planning to ditch testing for travelers hailing from low COVID-19 risk countries. Belize has planned a gradual tourism reopening starting in August. The Forte Village in Sardinia has already opened its doors for visitors.
In fact, the European Union is expected to release a list of ‘quarantine free’ countries in the coming days. The list will contain names of places that are fit for tourists to visit during whatever is left of the summer season.
At the same time, the European Union has also decided to bar most US travelers from entry once it opens its international borders. The list of banned countries also includes Brazil and Russia.
However, this hasn’t dulled the spirits of the US travelers as Hawaii has opened its doors for visitors. The island is offering visitors the option to either remain in a two-week quarantine upon arrival or opt for an on-arrival COVID-19 test.
While the reopening of the travel and tourism industry has come as welcome news for many, there are still many countries and cities that are a long way from recovering from the virus.
Moreover, it is expected that many people will be naturally hesitant in participating in recreational traveling until a vaccine is developed.
The travel industry, at this stage, has found itself in a peculiar dilemma. On one hand, it is important to resume travel and tourism activities before more hardworking people lose their jobs. On the other, resuming travel might just lead to another series of Coronavirus outbreaks.