Major destinations in the Mediterranean and beyond have introduced a wide range of health and safety measures to protect holidaymakers and offer safe summer holidays, ministers and officials told fvw.
Countries such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia have spent recent weeks (and months) intensively planning and implementing many different measures to provide protection for foreign visitors as well as local staff. Many destinations are now carefully opening up again for international tourism following the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
The biggest destination for German holidaymakers is kicking off international tourism again after ending a strict coronavirus lockdown. The government has agreed on a €4.26 billion package of financial measures for the sector, which accounts for more than 12% of Spanish GDP. The first of up to 10,900 planned German holidaymakers arrived on Majorca last week to test hygiene and distancing measures in hotels and restaurants and on beaches.
The Canary Islands plan to follow with an "expedition" led by UNWTO secretary general Surab Pololikashvili in July and then a gradual and careful re-opening. In terms of the German market, Yaiza Castilla, the islands’ tourism minister, told fvw that she is putting her hopes on the forthcoming winter season.
Neighbouring Portugal, which re-opened its border this month, has used the crisis to develop new digital solutions for tourists. In future, visitors will be informed how full beaches are with traffic light-style warnings and via an app.
The country, which had relatively low numbers of Covid-19 infections, has also developed a 'Clean & Safe' label for hotels that meet strict hygiene standards. Inês Almeida Garrett, director of Visit Portugal, told fvw that she hoped "a significant number of German tourists" will visit the country this year.
In Greece, where the tourism season starts on July 1, tourism minister Harry Theoharis hopes to welcome about 40-45% of last year’s number of international tourists this year. Mari Daskalantonakis, owner and managing director of the leading hotel group Grecotel, told fvw that she is "convinced that demand will increase" as German tour operators and airlines expand their holiday offers for the country.
Grecotel will re-open 17 properties this summer, offer discounted prices in July and August, and launch a 'safe holidays' concept where each room is allocated its own sun-loungers and sunshades at the pool and the beach, she said.
Similarly, Bulgaria, which had only 3,000 Covid-19 infections in total, is hoping for good demand on the German market this summer. Hotels on the Black Sea coast have introduced hygiene and distancing measures, while the country has invested in spa and health tourism facilities.
Meanwhile, Cyprus is ahead of other destinations in several ways. The island quickly controlled the local coronavirus outbreak through a lockdown, hotels re-opened on June 1 and then airports on June 20 after numerous tests, and quarantine restrictions for arrivals have been lifted.
Moreover, the government is trying to present an 'everything covered' image by promising to transfer any guests with suspected Covid-19 infections to special quarantine hotels where they can continue their holiday. "They are at least four-star standard. And there will be an entertainment programme that can be watched from the balconies," tourism minister Savvas Perdios told fvw. Moreover, should guests fall ill, "we will cover their treatment and accommodation costs," he promised.
In contrast, the situation is more complicated for non-EU countries Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia, which are all impacted by Germany’s extended travel warning until August 31.
Turkish tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy has launched a 'safe tourism' certification programme for airlines, transport companies and accommodation along with low-price insurance policies for holidaymakers that cover treatment for Covid-19 infections if necessary. "Our guests should feel comfortable and we are also ensuring this through the safe tourism certificate," he said.
German tour operators currently have about 1.3 million bookings for holidays in Turkey from July onwards that have mostly not been cancelled, and airlines are starting to resume flights to Antalya and other airports. It is unclear at present whether tour operators will go ahead with these holidays despite the travel warning – which is not a legal travel ban. Specialist Bentour Reisen, for example, plans to fly about 500 customers to Turkey in July.
Further south, Egypt is taking a gradual approach to relaunching tourism, while stressing that it is a safe destination. From July 1 onwards, foreign visitors will be able to have holidays in Red Sea coastal resorts (including Hurghada), where hotels are limited to 50% maximum occupancy, but the Nile region will remain closed in the short term.
Visitors will have to observe hygiene and distancing rules, while more than 230 hotels have been certified as meeting WHO hygiene standards. The Egyptian government is also supporting the tourism industry with financial measures, including a suspension of visas for tourists until October and subsidies for airlines.
Khaled Galal Abdelhamid, the Egyptian ambassador in Germany, emphasised to fvw: "The touristic areas at the Red Sea (Hurghada, Marsa Alam) and in the Southern part of the Sinai – Sharm El Sheikh – have almost not been affected (by Covid-19)."
The ambassador called on the German government to lift the travel warning soon. "Germany is the largest source market in the EU for tourists visiting Egypt and so it is very important for my country to get the restrictions, or travel to Egypt eased." He underlined: "Egypt is safe. Egypt is ready to provide an excellent and unique experience to the customer."
Another North African destination, Tunisia, is also claiming to be 'Ready & Safe' after introducing a new hygiene certification programme for the country’s entire tourism sector, including hotels, restaurants, cafés and even museums. The country, which had very low coronavirus infection levels, will re-open for international tourism on June 27.