Gradual opening continues but are travellers ready to travel?

Even as the overall number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in the world, in some countries like India, the number is increasing more rapidly, nations are relaxing restrictions and taking next steps to reopen various sectors of the economy, including leisure, travel and tourism.

In India, the Unlock 1.0, the first phase of reopening will come to end by 30th June and the Government of India is expected to issue guidelines for Unlock 2.0 anytime soon. In India, even as COVID cases have crossed 5-Lakh mark, the country may see some more relaxation in the next phase of reopening.

As in case of Unlock 1.0, the Union Government under the new guidelines is expected to authorise state government to take a call on the size and shape of the next phase of the unlocking considering the local situation.

Under the Unlock 1.0 that came into force on June 1st, the government of India had allowed reopening of hotels, restaurants, malls, places of worship and some other facilities from 8th June a strict protocol as issued by the Union Home Ministry.  Not every state allowed hotels and restaurants to open. In Delhi, hotels remain out of bounds for guests and are mostly being used by the government for keeping Corona patients. In Mumbai too, hotels are closed.

In India, domestic flights have been allowed to operate, although with limited capacity. Recently, the country’s civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri quelled all speculations regarding the start of the international flights, saying international flights from and to the country will remain suspended till 15th July. Therefore, for the time being, India remains out of bounds for foreign tourists, and so is rest of the world for Indians for lack of air connectivity, even if other countries allow Indians to enter their territories. Overall India’s travel and tourism industry has a bearish outlook in the absence of policy and strategic guidance from the government.

Elsewhere, the United Kingdom will see restarting of many activities from July 4. Setting aside all apprehensions, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced the reopening of many commercial and hospitality establishments in England such as hotels, restaurants, pubs, hair salons and museums from July 4 with certain restrictions. European countries like Germany, Italy and others have already lifter many restrictions.

Meanwhile, as the UK gears up for reopening, England’s tourism agency VisitEngland unveils industry-standard:  ‘We are good to go’.  The UK-wide initiative is a joint effort of the national tourist organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales that aims to provide a “ring of confidence” for tourism.

In the post-COVID-19, travel and tourism is not going to be what it used to be earlier. Till the vaccine is developed, many types of restrictions would remain in place. Not every destination would be as accessible as it used to be in past. Countries would be more selective in allowing nationals of other countries to enter their borders. Unlike in the past, the visa would be more restricted.

For example, the European Union will allow citizens of the limited number of countries to enter its borders, most likely from July. The Union will soon finalise a safe list of such countries, which may not include the US, Brazil, India and many other nations, having high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Switzerland has permitted the movements of travellers from the EU, barring Italy, and Schengen countries, and the UK, from June 15. France has also decided to allow all European travellers to enter the country from June 15. Germany has also allowed travellers from the EU countries including Italy and Schengen countries. Greece is allowing travellers from all countries enter from June 15.

Italy has already opened its borders for Europeans since June 3. Spain will start welcoming foreign tourists in July. So come July, a significant part of Europe will be open for foreign tourists, however mostly for Europeans.

Greece is allowing reopening of international tourism from July 1st. Nationals of countries that meet certain epidemiological criteria with regards to Covid-19 would be allowed to enter Greece.

Will the mere reopening of destinations encourage travellers to travel beyond their countries? Are travellers willing to take the risk? Willing back the confidence of travellers by ensuring them their good health and safety may encourage some to travel to their neighbouring countries and short-haul destinations, but confusion around mandatory self-isolation imposed by some countries is another issue that will deter tourists to travel abroad. Resumption of international flights between countries would be another important factor in restarting international tourism activities.

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