Countries across the globe are jockeying for pole position to be the first to restart tourism as a rapid fix to their coronavirus-hit economies.
The major European destinations in France, Italy and Spain are ramping up preparatory efforts to attract holidaymakers for this summer to save an industry that provide vital incomes for millions of citizens.
With aircraft flights dropping to levels not seen since 1978, governments and tourist bosses are eager to ramp up travel in time for Europe’s summer holidays. Globally hundreds of hotels, resorts and small tourist businesses face going bankrupt if they fail to get any income from the peak season.
Countries are now considering ‘travel bubbles’ in which an agreement is put in place between nations for a mutual swap of travelers without restrictive quarantine.
Greece, where tourism provides 18 per cent of GDP, has already appealed to its main customers Germany and Britain to make a reciprocal travel agreement.
Haris Theoharis, the tourism minister, said if Britain dropped its proposed 14 day quarantine Greece would welcome UK holidaymakers. “If we don’t impose quarantine for people coming to Greece from the UK from someday onward, we would welcome it if the UK extended the same thing.”
Neighbors Turkey are also desperate for tourists to return with the government writing to 70 countries assuring them it was safe for tourists. A significant 12 per cent chunk of GDP is earned from tourism with record revenues of almost $35 billion last year.
An agreement for a mini-free movement zone between Britain, France and Ireland is in the works but under pressure as the UK is still demanding that all incoming visitors undergo a 14-day quarantine. But Grant Shapps, the transport minister, indicated this could be relaxed with targeting of people from ‘high-risk’ countries. Britain currently has the world’s second highest toll of 34,796.
With 72 million people making overseas trips last year, Britain has now hinted that it might put in place ‘air bridge’ agreements with countries that have low infection rates.
The idea of an ‘air bridge’ between ‘safe’ nations will be the start of a slow recovery of airlines that has seen a 95 per cent fall in flights. New figures show that industry will lag two years behind global GDP economic recovery with 2023 forecast as the time it achieves 2019 levels.