Looking at colorful leaves, eating lobsters and watching bears in Canada? Desert tour and buying incense in Oman? Or would you prefer a cocktail on one of the long white sandy beaches of Phuket? All of this has recently been working again, at least for people who have been vaccinated or have recovered. After a summer in which traveling in Germany and the Mediterranean was practiced again, the classic long-distance travel season will begin in the coming autumn and winter with significantly more destinations that can be traveled again than there was a year ago.
But the question is not just: Where can you go? But also: do people want to go further away at all, or are they still afraid of getting infected, stranding abroad or are the entry procedures simply too time-consuming for them? For Thailand, which is traditionally the second most popular long-haul travel destination after the USA, the latter probably applies. For a few weeks now, the so-called “sandbox model” has given vaccinated people the opportunity to spend a quarantine-free vacation on Phuket and three smaller islands. But you still have to do a total of three PCR tests, two of them in the country. If the test is positive, you would have to go to quarantine in a hospital. Matthias Huwiler, head of long-distance travel at the tour operator FTI, is not surprised that the booking figures are therefore very poor: “This is currently time-consuming and complicated, but the Thai people are currently working on simplifying the system.”
In the future, many countries will only allow those who have been vaccinated and recovered to enter
Things are going better and even really well with the islands in the Indian Ocean, especially the Maldives and the Seychelles. A PCR test carried out in Germany is sufficient there, but it is also mandatory for vaccinated persons. The booking situation there is very good, says Huwiler, and is well over 60 percent of the pre-Corona level in 2019. Tanzania is also not doing badly with the island of Zanzibar. And that since September 7th, Germans with proof of vaccination have been able to travel to Canada, which was banned until this date, is seen as a very good sign in the industry. There will be no huge boom for short-term autumn trips, says Huwiler. But the third most important long-distance travel destination for Germans is back. “We hope that this will also put the USA under some pressure.” The United States still does not allow Europeans to enter for tourism, but it was the number one long-haul destination until the pandemic.
Many Asian countries are not yet travelable again, and Australia and New Zealand are still closed to holidaymakers from Europe. “We anticipate that many countries will only allow vaccinated or recovered holidaymakers to travel long distances,” says Huwiler.
Israel even goes so far as to open its borders from September 19 only to group travelers who received their second vaccination a maximum of six months ago or who received a third booster vaccination.
And some tour operators only take those who have been vaccinated or recovered with them, such as the tour operator Studiosus, to which Marco Polo also belongs. From October 1st, 2 G applies there. This is mainly due to practical reasons, explains Studiosus spokesman Frano Ilic. In Italy, for example, 3 G has been in effect since the beginning of September, which means that participants who have not been vaccinated or who have recovered have to do a new PCR test every 24 hours in order to be allowed to ride on the tour bus. “Organizing that is difficult and disturbs the group harmony a bit,” says Ilic. In more and more countries you also have to be vaccinated, recovered or tested for sights or restaurants. For these reasons, from November 1st onwards, learning ideas adventure trips will only take those who have been vaccinated and recovered with them. According to a customer survey at Studiosus, 97 percent of the guests were vaccinated anyway, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
And Studiosus is also seeing positive signals on the long-haul travel market. “We were pleasantly surprised ourselves that countries such as Canada, Oman, Jordan, but also Namibia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile are no longer considered RKI high-risk areas and are therefore becoming more attractive again for our customers,” said Ilic. Jordan is in demand again, several groups traveled there from the beginning of October. In Oman, the first trips would be made again from the end of October. Something is happening and that is good news. The long-distance travel level of 2019 is still a long way off, according to Ilic. While Italy, France and Greece continue to do very well, there is still reluctance to go to non-European destinations. “After a 17-month pandemic, we will have to learn to travel again,” said Ilic.
Many countries that are dependent on tourism suffer from this reluctance, for example in Africa. “Motorways are being built through national parks, poachers are on the advance because the rangers can hardly be paid,” says Rainer Stoll, head of Travel to Nature, a travel agency that specializes in long-distance nature trips and has just been to Uganda. Many Germans are still afraid of the virus, concerns about the threat of quarantine or inadequate health systems in the destination countries. Austrians and Swiss are a little more willing to travel here, as there are less restrictive warnings about countries and there is less risk of quarantine. This is clearly evident in Costa Rica, one of the organizers’ main goals. “Overall, across all of our targets, we are around 20 percent of the volume for 2019,” says Stoll, and he does not expect much more this year either. Depending on the destination, the flights are sometimes significantly cheaper, hoteliers also grant discounts and participate in the free cancellation option up to seven days before departure. But the spark for long-distance travel still has to really ignite.