(CNN) – The world’s largest tourist playground has been closed since it became a coronavirus epicenter, but as summer approaches, Europe is desperate to lift restrictions for visitors to inject much-needed cash into affected economies.
Across the continent, several nations currently sitting behind the quarantine firewall or sealed borders are discovering how they can welcome tourists back.
Last week, the European Union unveiled an action plan to reopen its internal borders, safely ignite its hotel sector and revive rail, land, air and sea connections that have been strangled during the pandemic.
It is a situation eagerly anticipated by millions of potential travelers, desperate to enjoy a slice of the sun and European culture after weeks or months of being kidnapped at home under lockdown.
“We all need a break, especially after this closure,” said Thierry Breton, commissioner of the EU’s internal market. “We want to enjoy the summer holidays, we would like to see our families and friends, even if they live in another region, in another country.
“But we want to be able to do it while staying healthy and safe because we know the virus will stay for a while.”
Currently, the EU has current recommendations for all its member countries to restrict all non-essential visitors from abroad. But with declining infection rates in some countries, it appears this will change.
Some countries, like Greece and Italy, are already naming specific dates. On Saturday, Italy announced plans to reopen its internal borders next month, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said many of the EU’s internal border restrictions would be lifted on June 15.
There is even talk of allowing special “green corridors” or “travel bubbles” that would allow certain countries with low or steeply falling infection rates to open up to a few select destinations until the borders are fully reopened.
Those movements have been supported in the EU plan that proposes to lift restrictions between member states on “sufficiently similar epidemiological situations”, in other words, the same rate of coronavirus infection.
However, visitors from outside the EU may still face an indefinite wait.
The EU plan also establishes a roadmap to develop health and safety protocols for beaches, hotels, campsites, B & Bs, cafes and restaurants to protect guests and employees, such as allowing people to reserve slots in the gym or pools in advance.
It also aims to strengthen rules that give travelers the right to choose between coupons or cash reimbursement for canceled transportation tickets or package tours.
EU member states have also agreed protocols to ensure that tracking apps work across borders so that citizens can be warned of possible coronavirus infection while traveling within the bloc.
“This will not be a normal summer, not for any of us,” said Margrethe Vestager, vice president of the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission. “But when we all work together and we all do our part in the ways the Commission presents itself today, then we don’t have to face a trapped summer at home or a completely lost summer for the European tourism industry.”
While these new measures will help to impose some order in a somewhat chaotic travel situation across the continent, it remains a fluid one.
At the moment, if you plan to travel to or within Europe in the coming months, here is what you need to know:
France is the most visited country in the world, but the coronvirus crisis has paralyzed tourism here.
PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Travelers with France at the top of their list of places to visit once the coronavirus crisis is easing should prepare for a long wait.
From now until at least July 24, anyone entering the country, with the exception of EU citizens or arrivals from the United Kingdom, will be subject to a mandatory 14-day coronavirus quarantine.
However, hotels may receive permission to resume business in the coming weeks.
French hotel chain Accor has closed nearly two-thirds of its hotels, while those that remain open are being used to support front-line and healthcare workers, as well as “vulnerable populations.”
“The good news is the initial recovery of the Chinese hotel market, with slight improvements in occupancy and activity in food and beverages – a revealing encouraging sign,” an Accor spokesperson told CNN.
While waiting for the government’s green light, workers have been “setting strict safety standards and cleanup protocols,” in preparation for the reopening.
While not expecting many, if any, international visitors in the coming months, much of Accor’s revenue comes from domestic travel, which appears to increase dramatically if border restrictions remain in place as restrictions are relaxed.
“When the blockade measures are relaxed, French tourists are likely to want to stay close to home in the short term,” added the spokesman.
“It will be time for them to rediscover their own country and we will be there to welcome them.”
Greece hopes to welcome visitors as soon as June.
Russell Yan / Pixabay
Greece could become one of the first European destinations to reopen to tourists.
The Mediterranean nation has managed to keep its number of coronavirus deaths remarkably low, with less than 170 Covid-19 deaths so far, by imposing a strict blockade from the start.
This week, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that the country would reopen to tourists on June 15.
“Let’s make this summer the epilogue of the [Covid-19] crisis, “he added.
According to Mitsotakis, direct international flights to Greek destinations will slowly start again from July 1, and tourists will no longer be required to test for Covid-19 or quarantine.
However, Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis says health officials will conduct timely tests when necessary.
In addition, the value added tax (VAT) on all transport will be reduced from 13% to 24% in an attempt to attract travelers.
The news came shortly after the Acropolis archaeological site, located in Athens, reopened on May 18, along with the country’s secondary schools and shopping malls.
However, the 2020 summer holidays in Greece will be very different from previous years for obvious reasons.
“This summer’s tourist experience may be slightly different than it has been in previous years,” Mitsotakis told CNN earlier this month.
“Maybe there are no bars open, or there are not crowds crowded, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece, as long as the global epidemic is on a downward path.”
Greece’s city hotels are slated to reopen June 1, followed by seasonal hotels a month later.
Currently, all international passengers are required to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival in Greece or quarantine for 14 days. Mitsotakis had previously suggested that tourists would need to undergo testing prior to their visit as an additional precautionary measure.
Although the country can prepare to receive visitors again, getting there will be a challenge for many.
Mitsotakis has an influx of “more high-end tourists” to help revitalize the country’s tourism industry, which employs one in five Greeks.
The new beach protocols in the Spanish city of Sanxenxo will involve the allocation of places to sunbathe on a first-come, first-served basis.
Courtesy of Diario de Arousa.
The running of the bulls in Spain turned out to be one of the strictest in Europe: the children were prohibited from leaving the house entirely in one stage.
But the popular destination, which received a record 84 million visitors in 2019, is slowly easing restrictions, with beaches reopening in June and hotels in some parts of the country granted permission to resume business.
However, officials are understandably cautious about reopening the country, and it seems unlikely that current border restrictions, which prohibit non-essential travel to Spain for all non-Spanish citizens, residents, and border workers, will change. before the end of the summer season.
“The issue of borders will be accompanied by the evolution of the health crisis,” he said.
So I don’t have the solution of when [they will be able to open]. On how you can enjoy our beaches, we are defining different scenarios. “
One or two of these “scenarios” have already been announced, with several cities establishing new protocols to maintain social distancing measures in busy stretches of sand.
Canet d’en Berenguer, a Mediterranean city located just north of Valencia, will only allow 5,000 people to sunbathe daily on its local beach when it reopens, while Sanxenxo de Galicia will assign the entrance to its beach on a first-come, first-served basis. .
Both are cutting small sections in the sands to ensure bathers can keep a safe distance from each other, a move that could well indicate the future of beach visits.
Earlier this month, a senior government official admitted that the country’s tourism industry would not be able to function again until all internal and external borders within the EU are reopened.
“A large part of our economy depends on the movements of international and Spanish visitors,” said the official.
“But we have to have a health system that can take care of anyone who is in Spain. That is the fundamental question.”
Italy is slowly lifting the restrictions after weeks and weeks of closure.
ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images
Italy has been one of the destinations most affected by the pandemic, with a “very long” blockade imposed in March, but Beautiful Country will not be off limits for much longer.
The Italian government has announced that EU travelers will be able to enter without quarantining from June 3 at a “calculated risk” for the country’s tourism industry to return to function.
“We have to accept it, otherwise we can never start again.”
Currently, Italy, along with the rest of the EU, has restrictions in force for all non-essential travel from outside the Schengen Zone (a grouping of 26 countries that normally have open borders), apart from the United Kingdom.
Travelers from EU countries have previously had to undergo a two-week quarantine before entering the country.
The announced measures are an important step in the country’s efforts to restart its economy after more than two months of blockade.
However, nearby Austria and Switzerland still have strong restrictions on traveling across borders, while many airlines have canceled most of their flights to Italy, so reopening will not be an easy process.
But officials have made it clear that they are eager to get things moving.
“I have never spoken, nor have I ever thought, of closing Italian borders to tourists by 2020,” Giorgio Palmucci, president of the Italian National Tourism Board (ENIT), said last month. “I am working on the exact opposite.”
All museums, including the Vatican Museums in Rome, will slowly reopen throughout May. However, strict social distancing rules will apply, with tickets purchased in advance online.
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican reopened on Monday May 18 after being closed for more than two months.
Officials in Germany are in no rush to reopen their borders.
Maja Hitij / Getty Images
Germany has managed to contain its coronavirus mortality numbers due to substantial testing and contact tracing, but authorities appear to be hesitant about allowing tourists to re-enter.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to stop border controls in the Schengen area in a matter of weeks.
“The goal is, if the infection process allows it, I want to emphasize that, starting June 15, border controls in the Schengen area can be completely removed,” he said on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Austrian Tourism Ministry said the foreign ministers of the two countries agreed to open the border as a first step for hikers and commuters. A second step would see a normal reopening starting June 15.
Germany remains closed to non-EU visitors, while many of its border crossings to neighboring states such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland are closed or guarded.
Hotels are currently banned from accommodating tourists, and most flights to and from Germany remain on land.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas previously expressed concern over the reopening of destinations too quickly, stressing that European countries should come together to decide the best course of action.
UK visitors must be quarantined for 14 days.
Maja Hitij / Getty Images
The UK government’s decision to introduce a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals just as it began to ease restrictions on residents has dashed any lingering hopes of reviving international tourism here in the coming weeks.
The move, filed for an indefinite period of time, is believed to discourage airlines from restarting flight operations quickly, and authorities have warned the British that their chances of a summer break abroad are slim.
When asked in a BBC television interview if UK citizens should book flights in July, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “I am saying that you cannot travel abroad now. If you are booking, It is clear that, by nature, you are taking the opportunity of where the direction of this virus is going and, therefore, where are the travel tips in the future. “
Under current plans, hotels are likely to start opening in early July, but given that EU border restrictions are still in place, the UK is expected to focus on domestic travel before other decisions are made. .
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no indication of when that is likely to happen.
Portugal received 24 million tourists in 2019.
Algarve Tourism Regiao
Portugal has also begun to ease its closure restrictions, allowing the reopening of beauty salons, dry cleaners and repair shops.
Some restaurants, museums and cafes were allowed to open at reduced capacity on May 18, as well as schools.
However, bathers will be required to comply with Portugal’s social distancing rules by keeping 1.5 meters away.
An application has been introduced that allows people to check if there is space on the beach of their choice to avoid overcrowding.
While it seems doubtful that international visitors can return before 2021, the destination has already implemented measures to ease the effects.
This applies to all bookings made through accredited travel agencies, as well as hotels or Airbnbs, for trips scheduled between March 13 and September 30, 2020.
Companies must comply with the hygiene and cleaning requirements for the prevention and control of Covid-19, to receive the seal, which is valid for one year.
The goal here is to drive the sector’s recovery by assuring visitors that every effort is being made to ensure they are protected.
But like most other European countries, Portugal will have to rely on the business of domestic travelers, while border restrictions remain intact.
Croatia previously suffered from over tourism, now the destination is eager to win back travelers.
ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images
However, the current limitations for foreigners are likely to remain in effect until June 15.
Non-nationals allowed to enter may be ordered to self-isolate or spend 14 days in official government quarantine facilities “at the expense of the traveler.”
But authorities hope to prevent this by introducing a special “green corridor” between each other and the Czech Republic, another destination with a low number of coronavirus cases as early as this summer.
This would mean that any Czech tourist who can provide documentation to demonstrate that he is not infected with the virus could travel to Croatia.
An image taken from Mont-Pelerin, western Switzerland, on November 20, 2016 shows the cities of Vevey (bottom) and Montreux (background) on Lake Geneva. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images)
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images
But that does not mean that things have returned to normal when it comes to traveling within the country.
Currently, only Swiss citizens and permanent residents, as well as those who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons, can enter the country.
Plans to resume the national tourism industry are moving forward, with museums, bars, and restaurants reopening this week, followed by hotels in late May.
The Czech Republic was one of the first European countries to close its borders in March.
Pixabay / Creative Commons
Croatia is not the only country with which the Czech Republic is likely to share a “green corridor”.
Apparently, proposals are being prepared for a similar agreement with Slovakia, one of the first European countries to ban international passenger travel.
Both countries have closed their borders to non-citizens and residents, along with Ukraine, Hungary and Poland, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone coming from abroad.
While there has been no clear indication from the governments of the aforementioned countries about when the borders will reopen, the use of a face mask in public spaces is now mandatory in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
As people like the Czech Republic and Slovakia have expressed an interest in opening international tourism only to less affected destinations, it is fair to assume that officials will not be in a hurry to welcome travelers from those heavily affected destinations, such as the United Kingdom and the USA USA as well as Spain and Italy.
Scandinavia and the Nordic region
The Swedish government chose not to issue a blockade
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP
As one of the only countries in Europe that does not issue a blockade, Sweden has few restrictions to lift.
However, its borders are still closed to countries outside the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, and these measures will remain in force for now.
Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin admitted that the country’s tourism sector has been “incredibly tough” due to the absence of travelers.
Lovin said it was wrong to suggest that the more relaxed approach meant it was business as usual in Sweden.
“Many small businesses are on their knees because production has dropped or decreased a lot.
“It is not the usual thing in Sweden, but quite the opposite, things are very, very difficult.”
Nearby Austria is planning a gradual return to normal, with the hotels reopening from May 29.
“We would like to offer our guests a wonderfully relaxed stay and of course we make sure that all hygiene standards are met,” says Hannes Muller, who runs the hotel.
Meanwhile, Denmark plans to lift the remaining blocking restrictions for the second week of June.
The country’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, has previously spoken of the possibility of reopening the borders, warning that this could take things “in a negative direction.”
“It can help to move the infection in a negative direction. Of course, borders must also be seen in the context of what is happening in the countries around us.” Frederiksen suggested that Denmark would not reopen the borders until “at least”.
Iceland introduced temporary controls at internal borders last month, prohibiting all foreign citizens except EU nationals and associated European countries.
All those arriving from outside the country must complete a 14-day quarantine from April 24.
The Nordic country is preparing to reopen in an attempt to undo some of the damage caused by the closure.
The Icelandic government hopes to begin easing restrictions on international arrivals by June 15.
While full details have yet to be confirmed, travelers are believed to have the option of either a test on arrival or a two-week quarantine.
“Although Iceland is an island, it has always prospered through international trade and cooperation,” Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson said in a statement.
“With only three cases of the virus diagnosed in May, we are again ready to carefully open our doors to the world.”
“While we are cautious, we are optimistic as a country that we can successfully begin our journey back to normal.”
Lithuania will join a “travel bubble” with other Baltic countries like Estonia and Latvia.
PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP / Getty Images
The borders of the Baltic countries Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been largely closed to foreign travelers due to the pandemic.
But starting May 15, each will lift restrictions on each other’s citizens, creating the first official “green corridors” or “travel bubbles” for the European Union.
“I think we will uphold this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the spread of the virus.”
Skvernelis suggested that Poland and Finland be invited to join later.
However, anyone traveling to countries from outside the “bubble” must be quarantined for two weeks.
CNN’s James Frater, Max Ramsay, Lindsay Isaac, Stephanie Halasz, Al Goodman, Mick Krever and Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.