It’s far too early to celebrate, but around the world consensus is beginning to build in the scientific community that covid-19 is weakening. Even in some of the worst hit countries like Italy, scientists are proclaiming “In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists”. Better yet, remaining strains aren’t proving as devastating. Much remains to be seen, but on the positive news, along with desperate economic needs, countries are looking to open borders much sooner than expected.
It’s becoming so contentious, some are even offering free testing as a perk of visiting.
Life on planet earth has been a roller coaster for as many weeks in 2020 as anyone can remember. When countries like Mexico, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Iceland announced clear cut plans to welcome tourists back as early as June 1st, 2020, early sentiment was that the countries were taking extraordinary risks. Portugal, keen to hold onto the summer season has even opened to US travelers as well.
But in the weeks since those bold first offers in tourism, reports have surfaced from leading scientists believing that what’s left of the dreadful and tragic virus is dying quickly, thanks to the luck of seasonality and very positive signs that reinfection is rare, at best.
Oxford researchers including Professor Adrian Hill noted the virus to be disappearing so quickly in the UK, vaccine studies risk not having enough patients for full trials. In Italy, Alberto Zangrillo, head of San Rafello Hospital near Milan told TV crews “The swabs performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,”.
Zangrillo even went as far as to say concerns over a second wave were alarmist, which was seconded by Matteo Bassetti, Head Of Infectious Diseases at San Martino Hospital, stating “The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today, It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.”
The news has countries which previously planned to put off tourism through 2020 scrambling to reverse course. With plexi glass on beaches, free testing at airports and new rules for hotel cleaning standards, destinations are looking to create safe solutions so as not to miss out on the billions in tourism brings to each local economy, in a time when people are struggling.
Early signalling of tourism interest from Spain, Greece, Austria and Iceland has created real demand in a time where it’s still lagging for countries less clear about their intentions. They may have seemed like mavericks just weeks ago, but now they’re looking like the only countries set to recover in the near term. Of course, countries where outside activities are a key draw and social distancing is natural are at an advantage.
To tackle confidence concerns, the World Travel & Tourism Council has created standardized guidelines which can cross borders, offering stamps of approval on the measures taken by airlines, restaurants, hotels and even destinations themselves.
People aren’t sure whether they want to travel this month or next, but surveys suggest most respondents plan to travel by the end of 2020, or at least within a year. Knowing which countries are eager to have you makes it a lot easier to create a short list or actually book something, versus countries where waiting on announcements later on has people thinking, but not booking.
Finnair recently announced interesting findings based on a wide survey of passengers, including…
- Nearly 9 out of 10 respondents expect to fly again within a year
- Travel restrictions are the biggest concern for customers
- 61% of respondents are already planning leisure trips to Europe
- Germany and Spain are the most popular destinations
- 65% of respondents said the mandatory wearing of face masks would ease their concerns
With Europe’s Schengen Zone set to open external borders from June 15th, and international air links soon to follow, countries throughout Europe and Asia are looking at short term solutions. Just days ago, Thailand ramped up timetables for reopening, with international visitors set to return from July onward, albeit with restrictions.
In the interim, Thailand expects all businesses in the country to reopen in June, before outside visitors. In other words, when and if your passport is welcomed in the country, you should experience the “full” Thailand. Even both Australia and New Zealand are ramping up efforts to modify time tables to get select air routes open again.
Across Europe, the story is much the same, with restaurants, bars and social gatherings beginning to reemerge, with new measures in place to increase distancing and safety. The UK will soon be the only outlier in Europe with plans to initiate a 14 day quarantine, as the rest of the world relinquishes their own.
Donald Trump recently signaled that the US will drop European travel bans sooner rather than later, which is great news for those hoping to plan trips. Currently, the US offers a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, but the plan isn’t expected to last through the month either.
For travelers, June 2020 will be a big deal in immediate and historic terms. The question is: where will you go, and when?