Even as many nations begin to lift their coronavirus travel restrictions, travellers considering a gamble on late-2020 trips abroad might want to reconsider - or at least make sure to book a very flexible ticket. Some destinations have recently made moves to extend their tourism shutdowns.
Hospitality experts say extended border closures might be a smart move for the survival of certain tourist-frequented destinations.
"As countries open and close again due to [Covid-19] cases . . . these destinations might be thinking 'Let's just wait until the storm is over,' " said John Niser, director of the International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (ISHTM) at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "Reopening and then closing again due to an outbreak . . . it's totally unpredictable."
Nations that have reopened in 2020 only to return to limiting tourists in some way include the Bahamas, which closed its borders to Americans after coronavirus cases began to rise in July. (It later reopened with 14-day quarantines in place.) The government of Hungary, which has been open to EU tourists and citizens of some other low-risk countries, announced Friday that it was closing its borders on September 1 amid a rise in cases.
Here's which destinations have signalled or outright announced they won't be allowing tourists until 2021:
The Indonesian island of Bali recently announced that, contrary to its previously planned reopening date of September 11, it will not allow international tourists until 2021. Instead, the island is allowing only domestic travel in hopes of supporting the local economy while avoiding a rise in Covid-19 cases. In its third phase of reopening protocol, Indonesia's tourism board announced in a news release that "Bali [will] not be able to open up to foreign tourists as previously planned" and will "extend the travel ban until at least the end of 2020." The Indonesian tourism board also noted that Bali's main airport, which is closed to international arrivals, is instead seeing thousands of domestic tourism arrivals per day.
Niser said that smaller tourism destinations made up primarily of small businesses have an added incentive to stay closed off: Small-business owners in tourist-frequented areas carry less debt than the big chains, so "it might be cheaper to stay closed."
Thailand recently echoed the intention to delay reopening, with Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya of Thailand's tourism authority commenting in a webinar earlier this month: "I see no signal from the government that the country will open this year."
The country has an October pilot program in place to allow some international tourists into Phuket, but only if the visitors agree to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival at a designated resort.
Australia and New Zealand
Larger nations are also hinting that they are unlikely to reopen in 2020, with Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce recently telling investors that he predicts Australians will not be able to fly internationally until 2021, according to the New Zealand Herald. Australia and New Zealand officials have spoken about allowing a potential travel bubble between the two nations if Covid-19 levels remain controlled, but New Zealand is still imposing a complete ban on almost all visitors.
New Zealand's tourism board told The Washington Post via email: "It is not known at this time when the border is likely to reopen, but the health and safety of New Zealanders will be at the forefront of any decision made by the New Zealand Government."
Australia's tourism minister Simon Birmingham said in April during an appearance on News Breakfast, an Australian morning program, that citizens shouldn't plan on being able to travel internationally come December. In August, he stressed on the same show that Australians should support the tourism industry by booking domestic stays and experiences.
Another large country that heavily depends on tourism, South Africa has the most Covid-19 cases in all of Africa, with over 618,000 total cases. The peak of new daily cases hit in late July, after strict lockdowns and curfews imposed early in the pandemic were lifted in May. Sisa Ntshona, the chief executive of South African Tourism, told the BBC amid the outbreak last month, "I don't foresee any international tourism happening within this calendar year."
Protests in South Africa have become commonplace as a response to the impact of Covid-19. The Institute for Security Studies, also known as ISS Africa, said in a July analysis: "The pandemic has exposed socio-economic weaknesses resulting from poor policy implementation and a fundamental failure of political leadership." The South Africa-based organisation notes that an average of eight protests occurred every day in July, which is the most the country has seen in a month since 2013.
Niser, of ISHTM, says he expects some nations to see similar unrest if they continue to remain closed to the tourism that they depend on, despite the threat tourism poses to public health. Outside of businesses like hotels, there are individual workers to think about, such as taxi drivers, guides and tour operators, he says, who might not have work until the crowds return.
"I predict some big social unrest in the Caribbean and Africa, South Africa in particular, and some countries in Asia," Niser says. "Empty pots can be more dangerous than tanks in the street, so to speak."
The Washington Post