People sit in an outdoor cafe next to the Ancient Agora in Athens on Tuesday. AFP
From France to Greece, Europe's top tourist destinations are gearing up to welcome visitors back this summer after the coronavirus pandemic wrecked last year's season.
The European Commission is working on a "Digital Green Pass" that would provide proof of vaccination and COVID-19 test results, with the aim of making travel easier for people in the European Union and abroad. The pass may be available from June, but countries are already getting ready for tourists.
Here is a look at the latest situation:
France was the world's top tourist destination before the pandemic in 2019 with 90 million visitors. The government launched a multi-million-euro campaign on Tuesday to woo tourists. Restrictions are gradually being lifted, with France's famous cafe terraces set to reopen on May 19 along with shops, museums and theatres. Indoor spaces in restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen on June 9 with a near total return to normal by the end of the month.
But new restrictions could be imposed if cases exceed 400 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
Athens last month lifted a seven-day quarantine period for travellers from the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. It reopened outdoor cafes and restaurants before France, on May 3. Now it is hoping to make its idyllic islands Covid-free by giving them priority in the vaccination campaign, giving jabs to their entire adult population earlier than the rest of Greece. Private beaches reopened Saturday and museums will follow suit on May 14. Outdoor cinemas will do so from May 21 although with reduced capacity and theatres will do the same from May 28.
Cruise ships and passengers will also be welcome at Greek ports, a boon as tourism is worth a 20 percent slice of Greece's GDP, according to the World Trade and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Spain was the second top tourist destination in the world afer France in 2019, with 83.5 million visitors. Visits crumbled by 77 percent last year. Tourism represents 14.1 percent of Spain's economic activity. Madrid has been a relative refuge for European tourists as bars, museums, restaurants and theatres have been left open since last June. Visitors only need to show a negative virus test over the previous 72 hours. As of last Sunday, Spaniards can travel outside their region and the country's curfew has been lifted save for the Balearic Islands and Valencia region pending a judicial green light.
Italy plans to introduce its own Covid pass later this month ahead of the EU which will allow travel to every region of the country. The certificate will be given to people who can show they were vaccinated or previously had Covid-19, or tested negative for the coronavirus. The document will be available to people outside the EU, said Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia. "The US and Britain represent 30 percent of foreign arrivals in Italy. They are tourists who spend a lot," he said. Cruises have resumed in Italian ports while bars and restaurants can serve people outside again. Italy welcomed 64.5 million foreign visitors in 2019, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
The Mediterranean island of Malta, which received 2.8 million tourists in 2019, is to offer the first 38,000 visitors 200 euros ($243) towards a minimum three-night hotel stay. The sum must be spent in the country and will be increased by 10 percent for trips to the isle of Gozo. Malta may demand that visitors be vaccinated or show a negative Covid test before arrival if Covid-19 is not under control in their country of origin.
These new experiences were launched by Dubai Holding in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to expand the hospitality and leisure offering across Hatta.
Taking place from May 16 to 19, this year’s event has 1,300 exhibitors from 62 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, the Maldives, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico and the US, underscoring the strength of our reach.
With 156 rooms and suites, as well as the floating Neptune villas, guests checking in at the resort will arrive by speedboat from the popular beaches on Jumeirah Beach Road. A connected floating helipad and a marina will accommodate up to 16 private yachts allowing billionaires to arrive in style.
These marine ecosystems capture more carbon dioxide than typical terrestrial forests, making them attractive funding prospects for faraway governments and businesses looking to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
Japan is bracing for a return of tourists from abroad, as border controls to curb the spread of coronavirus infections are gradually loosened.
The initiative is in line with Dubai Can, launched by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, to eliminate single-use plastic bottles.