Tourism is slowly but surely opening up across Europe, but as you are probably all too aware, American travelers have yet to receive the green light to return to the overwhelming majority of the Old Continent.
While we don’t know precisely when things will change, we do know that at some point in the (hopefully near) future, American travelers will be heading back across the pond.
So while we are still forced to fantasize about the magic and romance of Europe from our homes, why not turn our attention to what will be waiting for us when we do return?
We know that cleanliness and social distancing at attractions will be a priority, but how else might things be different? Is this the time to re-think what destinations we visit and/or suggest to our clients? Has this crisis put an end to overtourism in Europe?
I recently interviewed representatives of over a dozen European countries to get their thoughts on those questions and much more. Click to the right to read their insight.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Europe?
According to Miguel Gallego, Head of Marketing and Communication, European Travel Commission:
What we know for sure is that business as usual definitely will not be an option. Before a vaccine is developed and this health crisis is long behind us, we all – the tourism industry and travelers – need to adapt to the “new normal” and use smart solutions to restart transatlantic travel and tourism. Notably, placing high emphasis on safety and security throughout the entire journey – from baggage drop-off at the airport to check-in hotel procedures – will be an essential part of the travel experience.
We also expect that COVID-19 will likely encourage European tour operators and travel providers to develop and offer products answering the needs of visitors in the aftermath of the outbreak. For example, travelers will find new hygienic and safety seals at hotels and other attractions. These seals jointly developed by destinations and the industry are meant to guarantee consumers that the latest protocols are being followed. Reservations may be mandatory to access some of the most popular sites and points of interest like museums or art galleries to ensure that social distancing is kept and offer a more pleasant visit. American travelers eager to get some fresh air and space, as well as opportunities to reconnect with themselves and with nature will find here more offers for natural and outdoor experiences as well as customizable products such as self-guided tours.
What have you learned about travel in Europe during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
The travel demand in Europe has been picking up slowly since travel restrictions were steadily lifted in mid-June. There is a high intention among Europeans to travel again, but people are still cautious to book vacations. To restore people’s confidence, we keep urging European authorities to cooperate for a harmonized approach in re-opening destinations and launching informative campaigns together with the industry that focuses on communicating practical information and advice to potential visitors. Travelers want to be reassured about lifting of border barriers, new health and safety protocols put in place in the destination they plan to visit and rightfully so. In this regard, we recommend consumers and travel advisors to visit the re-open EU interactive platform as it is a great resource for up-to-date guidelines by country – reopen.europa.eu/en.
Another change we envisage to see this year is the extension of the summer season to September and October as well as more travel opportunities off-season. As the start of holidays was delayed in Europe this year and we still cannot welcome most international travelers, hotels and other tourism providers will be eager to stay open longer and welcome visitors beyond the high season.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. What adjustments could we see made going forward across the continent?
Even though triggered by such a dramatic crisis, it is high time now to reinvent the tourism sector of tomorrow – to accelerate the transformation to more sustainable, digital and innovative tourism.
We have been talking for so long about sustainable growth, climate change, digitalization and innovation, but this is an opportunity to press the reset button, challenge pre-established models and finally take all these matters seriously.
Travelers need to change their attitudes as well. Revaluation of the travel and tourism industry will lead travelers to consider conscious tourism. People will start asking themselves before they book their holidays, what is going to be the impact, not just from an environmental point of view, but also what they are doing for local communities.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Europe after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Europe is the perfect destination to wander off the well-worn paths and uncover unexpected and extraordinary experiences in the post-pandemic world.
For American travelers with a curiosity for the natural world, they can explore picturesque national parks, blue-and-gold coastlines and vineyards, all with welcoming locals waiting to make them feel at home. Europe is the ideal place to unwind and take things slow, experiencing nature at your own pace and gaining a deeper understanding of the environments you encounter. Our unrivaled diversity of landscapes, rural life and wildlife know no bounds.
We suggest travelers visiting Europe take the time to pause and make eco-conscious travel choices, leaving no discernible footprint behind, interacting with local culture and natural rhythms, engaging with local communities, and returning home with a finer appreciation of life.
For the more culturally curious, Europe’s creative cities beyond the popular tourist spots like London or Paris offer a vibrant urban lifestyle and vivid cultural scene filled with architectural gems, fashion, music, street and performing arts. Europe is home to a wide diversity of creators, communities and a culture of reinvention especially in these unprecedented times which is unique and worth discovering.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Britain?
According to Gavin Landry, Director/Executive Vice President of the Americas, VisitBritain:
As the international response to the Covid-19 pandemic continues, the public’s health and safety remains the UK Government’s first priority. VisitEngland, in partnership with the national tourist organizations from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, has launched a UK-wide industry-standard quality mark to reassure visitors that British tourism businesses, attractions, and destinations are working towards reopening with clear processes in place.
The ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard and supporting mark means businesses across the UK can demonstrate that they are adhering to Government and public health guidance, have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment, and have checked that they have the required processes in place. More than 24,000 businesses across the UK have registered for the scheme to date.
The We’re Good To Go industry standard and consumer mark will support domestic and international visitors to book a break in the UK with confidence. Our priority is to make sure tourism rebounds to once again become one of the most successful sectors of the UK economy and providing this ‘ring of confidence’ is a crucial step on the industry’s road to rebuilding.
Alongside the industry standard, VisitEngland has launched a Know Before You Go public information campaign to support tourism in England as destinations re-open, recommending visitors to check what it is safe to do and when. We suggest visiting the official government pages for more information on the protocols, as well as visiting the tourism website of the area they are traveling to in order to find out what is open, what has changed, and important information to know before they arrive.
As Scotland continues to relax lockdown restrictions and prepares to reopen its tourism sector on July 15, VisitScotland has released a visitor charter with advice on how to enjoy Scotland responsibly when visitors return. Tips include planning ahead to know what’s open, remaining considerate of the local community, and embracing slow travel by deeply and thoughtfully exploring a smaller number of destinations.
VisitBritain is also a brand partner in the UK Government’s Enjoy Summer Safely campaign which launched on 4 July to inspire the public to begin to get back to the things they have missed whilst following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
We want to reassure international travelers that our planning towards the future recovery continues. American travelers can also be assured of a very warm British welcome when the time comes to travel again, and that our breath-taking landscapes, our world-famous culture and heritage will still be here for when visitors are able to return.
We will also be working with the international travel trade so that US buyers are ready to sell Britain again. The US is an incredibly important market for the UK, its largest and most valuable inbound visitor market, with our tourism businesses welcoming millions of American visitors every year. We look forward to welcoming you back to our shores as soon as we can.
What have you learned about travel in Britain during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
The tourism sector in England began reopening from 4 July. The industry is raring to go and businesses have been working extremely hard preparing to welcome visitors back and to give them a safe and enjoyable experience. And while things may look a little different and we may no longer see familiar sights such as the hotel buffet, tourism has been as welcoming, innovative and adaptable as ever adjusting to the new normal.
Our consumer sentiment data shows that rural and coastal destinations, villages and seaside towns are among the top location types being considered domestically as well as country parks and other open outdoor attractions with many people stating a tendency to avoid crowded places.
People would also prefer to travel in their own car, rather than any other shared modes of transport and we have seen interest in self-drive itineraries. Camping and caravanning organizations have also reported large upticks in inquiries and bookings.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Britain and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Social distancing is an important part of official government guidance for safely opening the visitor economy, and businesses including retail outlets, restaurants, bars, pubs, museums, gardens, and many other attractions are implementing new measures to offer guests a safe and comfortable experience.
Attractions such as Kew Gardens, the Roman Baths, and Blenheim Palace have all reopened with tickets available for timed entry that must be booked in advance. Indoor attractions are introducing measures like one-way tours, new signage, and smaller group admissions for a more intimate experience, and ferries to outer islands have started offering limited tickets to reduce the capacity of visitors. It is possible that similar processes will remain in place long-term, not only to manage health concerns but to prevent overcrowding and promote an enjoyable visitor experience as well.
To escape the crowds, visitors are also encouraged to seek out destinations that are lesser-known, including not only remote destinations but also neighborhoods in bigger cities. Welcoming US visitors back to Britain presents an opportunity to showcase destinations that are relatively undiscovered as well as offering new experiences and adventure in open spaces. The UK has a dynamic and varied tourism offer all year round from idyllic villages and national parks to lake towns and coastal walking trails. Please visit our website visitbritain.com for itineraries, inspiration, and destination information.
Also, in 2019 the UK Government announced a ‘Tourism Sector Deal’ for the UK including developing the concept of Tourism Zones, to drive visitor numbers across the country, extend the tourism season and to build the local tourism offer across destinations, tackling local barriers to tourism growth. So we will also be working to use the sector deal outcomes to support the industry longer-term for a new era of travel, to drive innovation and boost the UK’s profile as a destination, and tourism’s contribution to the wider recovery.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Britain after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
As Britain prepares to welcome visitors again, we have some exciting new openings and attractions coming next year that travel advisors and visitors will want to keep on their radar. Returning visitors may be looking for ways to escape the crowds, and Britain has plenty to explore along our gorgeous coasts and countryside. Notable upcoming outdoor attractions include:
The England Coast Path, the longest continuous coastal walking path in the world (around 2,800 miles) will allow visitors to walk the border of England. The path is opening in sections with some accessible right now, but the full path will officially open in 2021.
RHS Garden Bridgewater is a new garden and community space opening outside of Manchester from the Royal Horticultural Society. It will be the largest gardening project in Europe and opening May 2021.
The Eden Project in Cornwall will open a new onsite hotel in 2021. This popular attraction offers 30 acres of outdoor gardens and educational spaces, as well as biomes supporting exotic gardens and the world’s largest enclosed rainforest. The hotel, which includes elements of sustainability in its design, is one of many new hotels coming to Great Britain in the next year.
Scotland will continue celebrating its Year of Coasts and Waters in 2021, building a calendar of events to showcase their breath-taking landscape, coastlines, islands, and lochs. Guests may want to visit The Loch Ness 360-degree Trail, an epic new walking, cycling, running and outdoor activity trail in the Scottish Highlands. The trail loops the entire circumference of Loch Ness, starting and finishing in the Highland Capital of Inverness but available to be joined at any point. This trail connects the Great Glen Way and the South Loch Ness Trail into one circuit around the loch covering 80 miles.
Wales will continue celebrating its Year of Outdoors, highlighting the adventure and outdoor experiences available in this small and beautiful country. Attractions include the world’s fastest zip line and Wales’ own complete coastal walking path featuring 870 miles of cliffs and sandy beaches.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Spain?
According to José Manuel de Juan, Director of the Tourist Office of Spain in New York:
That will be the same change when they step outside in their home town: people wearing masks and keeping social distance. In Spain, during the “new normal” (until there is a vaccine), wearing face masks is compulsory when and where you cannot keep 2 meters distance from the others, and also in public transportation, museums etc.
But apart from that, be sure that under the masks people will be smiling at you as usual.
What have you learned about travel in Spain during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Spain opened to tourists from Europe on June 21, and this month to some other countries. The arrival of tourism started immediately but slowly. Spain is the second most visited country in the world, and summer is usually our peak season, with most of our visitors arriving from Europe (UK, Germany, France, Scandinavia…), so there was a lot of pent-up demand from our usual visitors, that wanted to spend the summer in Spain as every year. And they are arriving, mainly to our beaches, and it has been a test for hotels, restaurants, etc., to see if the protocols work.
The Secretary of State for Tourism has created the “Responsible Tourism” label to recognize those tourist establishments that make an effort to create a safe environment not only for tourists but for their own workers and residents, applying the guidelines and recommendations contained in the handbooks that have been prepared for the different kind of establishments and services to reduce the spread of the COVID-19.
So all these visitors are finding that most of the hotels and restaurants have the “Responsible Tourism” label, and this is creating confidence among them. So far the process is working and it has not been any cases of infection among the visitors.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Spain and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Absolutely. One of the main strategies of the Plan to Boost the Tourism Sector post-COVID-19 of the Spanish Government is sustainability. So as a part of it, the Secretary of State for Tourism and the Governments of the different regions in Spain have agreed to launch the Tourism Sustainability Program. This is a program which aims to help destinations to recover by means of creating a more sustainable tourist product. The Sustainability Program contemplates two different lines: one for popular destinations, with specific needs for renewal and repositioning, and the other for destinations located in rural and inland areas, for the creation of a product based on their unique resources that creates wealth and fight depopulation. The goal is that the implementation of these sustainability programs will contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector after the coronavirus crisis and will strengthen its competitiveness, accelerating its transformation towards a model based on sustainability and digitization.
But there also many other measures already implemented by different destinations. For instance in Barcelona, the Barcelona Tourism Board launched before the pandemic the Biosphere distinction for tour operators. This seal recognizes “those tour operators who are committed to responsible and respectful management of the environment, culture, working conditions, gender equality and social and economic benefits”. The companies adhering to this initiative must comply annually with a series of phases and actions that lead them to exceed sustainability requirements, included in the Good Practice Manuals. Although the program started before the crisis, the number of operators in the program has expanded now.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Spain after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
There are so many areas of Spain where you can enjoy our culture, nature, weather and lifestyle without being surrounded by fellow visitors. I could recommend as an example the Northern Spain, the Regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, where you can hike through beautiful landscapes, visit old fishing towns full of cultural sites, swim in small caves and enjoy delicious local food, surrounded mainly by locals.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit the Netherlands?
According to Elsje van Vuuren, Press + Media, Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions:
COVID-19 is continuously developing globally, and destinations are adapting accordingly. In the current situation, the Netherlands continues to see decreases in confirmed COVID-19 cases within its borders and therefore has relaxed social distancing measures since June 1. One of the biggest changes, and a difference from the American standard, is that the Dutch government created a “1.5-meter economy” where everyone is encouraged to maintain this distance (approximately 5 feet). Wearing a mask/facial covering is only required when using public transportation, and at the airport during check-in, and at immigration. A mask/facial covering is not mandated in supermarkets, restaurants, shops, etc. as opposed to many areas in the US. Therefore, Americans should be aware that many will not be wearing masks throughout the country.
(For more information, American travelers should visit the website of the US Embassy and Consulate in the Netherlands: https://nl.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information-3/)
What have you learned about travel in the Netherlands during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
You notice that cafes and restaurants adhere well to the 1.5-meter measures. At many cafes and restaurants, advance booking is required. Some work with timetables. On many terraces is a terrace conductor present who checks people on their health. It gives a friendly atmosphere. In museums, the guidelines are also well adhered to. Also at museums, one must make reservations in advance.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in the Netherlands and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Prior to COVID-19, the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) was already applying a strategy called “HollandCity”, aiming at spreading tourism both seasonally and regionally, to reduce overtourism in cities such as Amsterdam. In addition, NBTC developed “Perspective 2030” – the vision for tourism in the Netherlands and addressing the changing role of tourism. The new approach prioritizes the common interests of visitors, companies and residents. The goal is for every Dutch person to benefit from tourism.
Central to achieving this ambition, the priority was to make the whole of the Netherlands an attractive destination, putting more cities and regions on the map. It also focuses on sustainability, to minimize waste and pollution that potentially comes with overtourism, while creating innovative solutions.
When the COVID-19 health crisis is resolved, we expect to return to these strategies to lessen the pressure of overtourism on some of our major cities and attractions. As a result, the future focus will be on developing products, services and (authentic) experiences in lesser-known yet attractive areas, and marketing these to enhance tourism to these particular areas. Note that development will take place in close collaboration with the regions, including local businesses as well as communities/residents.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to the Netherlands after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Given the size of the Netherlands, how compact it is, and how easy it is to get around, there are so many options for Americans who will fly into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. In 25 minutes, via high-speed train, they can get to Rotterdam, and see a completely different kind of Dutch city. Rebuilt after the bombing of the city during World War 2, Rotterdam is a city of many faces: a tough port city, a trendy nightlife city, a sophisticated shopping city, and a hip artistic city.
If you are interested more in nature than city life, the Netherlands offers beautiful nature reserves such as the Veluwe, as well as coastal areas such as Zeeland in the south and the Wadden Islands in the north. Of course, the Netherlands also has more than 37,000 km of bike paths, if you prefer to hop on a bike and explore, this is a fun and safe way to see so much of the country.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Austria?
According to Michael Gigl, Region Manager USA & Australia, Austria Tourism Office:
Overall, Austria has been quite successful in keeping the spread of Covid-19 under control. The country’s travel and tourism sector has begun a careful and coordinated recovery since May. Currently, many of the leisure destinations in the Alps, and especially the lake districts, enjoy a summer season mainly with guests from within Austria, neighboring Germany and other European travelers. Vienna, by far Austria’s main city destination, is hardest hit by the lack of long-haul travelers from overseas markets, like the United States.
What have you learned about travel in Austria during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Overall, the level of cooperation of the Austrian population and travelers to adhere to the relevant social distancing and mask rules has been quite positive. While the epidemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on the tourism sector, one can sense a tremendous can-do spirit within the industry.
The Austrian Tourist Office is working closely with the Federal Government to further this spirit within the industry. A special “#wirsindtourismus (we are tourism) and #schaffenwir (we got this) campaign highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of Austria’s family operations within the tourism sector.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Austria and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Already pre COVID, Austria has implemented a country-wide tourism strategy that stresses a sustainable approach to tourism, one that places the interests of the local communities and travelers alike. Our tourism sector has historically been driven by local communities and private, family-run businesses. Luckily, overtourism was not as big of an issue in Austria as in some other destinations. Wherever overcrowding had been an issue, it was mainly related to day visitors. Going forward I am certain that the pace and form of an eventual full post COVID recovery will have a direct impact on local and regional policies.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Austria after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Austria has often been described as a perfect combination of nature and culture. Nowhere else can travelers experience world-class cultural experiences (think the music of the Vienna Philharmonic or the museums of Vienna) with an immersion into some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. The western two-thirds of Austria are, in essence, part of the Alps and offer an unparalleled opportunity for nature experiences. My suggestion, a multi-day visit to Vienna, combined with an extended stay in or plenty of opportunities and excursions to safely explore the mountains nearby.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Brussels?
According to Jeroen Roppe, Visit Brussels:
The safety measures taken in Brussels. There will also be a health safety label that provides visitors with reassurance around the quality and safety of the tourism infrastructure.
What have you learned about travel in Brussels during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
That people really take the time to enjoy our touristic hotspots. People show more interest. It seems like traveling has become a more thoughtful activity. I have the impression that the average museum visit lasts longer now. People tend to stay longer on our Grand Place, the most beautiful square in the world.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Brussels and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
We try to lead our visitors to several areas in the city that are not located in the city center. There are so many places that are not yet discovered by the majority of tourists in Brussels. Especially the green parts. Did you know that half of Brussels is actually green?
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Brussels after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
I would suggest the Tour&Taxis area in Brussels. It is an old industrial neighborhood that is transforming into a new urban space where modern architecture, nature, microbreweries, art and events meet. It gives you an idea of what the future of the city is.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Poland?
According to Magdalena Zelazowska, Polish Tourism Organization:
The most visible change will be seen in hotels. Polish Tourism Organization has initiated a certification program designed for businesses providing accommodations. The main goal of this initiative is to provide visitors and guests with access to information about facilities offering their services in compliance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Economic Development and the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate.
By joining this project, establishments that use the Hygienic Safe Venue. We Follow the Guidelines logo declare that the services they provide are following the current guidelines To ensure the safety of visitors and employees, all associated facilities have introduced special procedures to minimize infection risk. A map of COVID-safe accommodations can be found on the Poland travel website: bezpiecznyobiekt.pot.gov.pl/for-tourist. Extra safety measures will also be noticeable in restaurants, tourist attractions and public transport. We want to make sure everybody who visits Poland feels safe and comfortable.
What have you learned about travel in Poland during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
The pleasant surprise is how eager Poles are to travel and explore their own country and how safe they feel doing it. After the break they had to take in spring they are now enjoying their time outside, cycling, hiking, climbing. The local tourism industry has done a great job to prepare for the new normal in travel. So far everything is going smoothly and domestic tourism is improving day by day. We are now waiting for the international tourists to come back to Poland.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Poland and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
One of Poland’s unique selling points is that it is located in the exact center of Europe and yet it has never been overcrowded. This is why we don’t have to reinvent the image of our destination – the current situation allows us to build on it even more, as people appreciate Poland’s space and ability to breathe more than ever. We like to stress the easiness of traveling around Poland – the country is pretty compact so you don’t have to spend long hours getting to places. Naturally, we are currently focusing more on promoting natural attractions and active tourism more than cities, although European Destinations’ ranking mentioned Gdansk and Warsaw among the safest cities in Europe in the context of the pandemic.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Poland after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Polish nature is amazing and it offers countless safe hideaways. Poland may be small – it’s only the size of Arizona – but its landscape is diversified: three hundred miles of sandy beaches, seven thousand lakes, Alpine-style mountain resorts, hundreds of trekking trails and cycling routes. Hel Peninsula on the Baltic coast has recently been listed #3 on European Best Destination’s ranking presenting 10 safest beaches in Europe.
I also recommend Mazury Lake District with its beautiful lakes and villages or Bieszczady Mountains, especially charming in the fall. Cyclers can try the Green Velo Route in the woods of Eastern Poland. But you don’t have to avoid cities to feel safe. It is worth saying that Poland belongs to the European countries that were least affected by the coronavirus.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Norway?
According to Visit Norway:
Norway was not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as many other countries. Because of this, and Norway’s action to close borders early and take social distancing measures seriously, life in Norway is similar today as it was before the crisis. Thanks to Norway’s low population density (just 38 people square mile), the country is naturally socially distanced and has always been known to take cleanliness and sanitation seriously. When people do begin to travel again, they will most likely notice information on cleanliness and sanitation policies to be more visible, crowded events to be less crowded and tourist experiences to be conducted in smaller groups. However, Norway is powered by nature, and that nature, which is Norway’s primary attraction, will be unchanged and just as spectacular as pre-COVID.
What have you learned about travel in Norway during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Norway has taken the Coronavirus seriously opting to close borders and shut down key elements of society in order to get control over the virus. Even today, Norway continues to play it safe, only opening borders to countries that meet a strict criteria as outlined below. This strategy may mean that Norway opens a bit slower than some other destinations, but it will help to ensure that the virus stays under control and that Norway can provide the same level of world-class travel experiences as it did before this crisis began.
1. Incidence rate last 14 days (average last two weeks) <20/100 000 per week.
2. Admission to intensive care last 14 days (average last two weeks) (<0.5/100,000).
3. Number of positive tests last 14 days < 5%.
1. Anyone with suspected COVID-19 regardless of severity is encouraged to be tested.
2. A contagion tracking system has been established around all confirmed cases.
3. Information material is available for those traveling.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Norway and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Norway is generally not an overtouristed destination although some small areas of the country have been known to surge in tourism during very specific times of the year. This is often tied in with cruise ship traffic within the fjords. As cruise ship traffic has decreased during the COVID crisis, destinations typically popular with ships now have more resources available to welcome land-based guests, especially those looking to maintain social distancing. The crisis has also presented an opportunity for lesser-known areas of the country (with similar experience offerings) to start to get on the tourism map as people still want to visit Norway but are more receptive to broadening their consideration when determining where to explore.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Norway after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Norway is a very easy place to get off the beaten path and there are destinations in all corners of the country where you’ll find yourself far more likely to be interacting with locals, than other tourists. However, in my opinion, one of the best possible options for people considering Norway as their first post-Coronavirus destination would be to explore Norway’s 18 National Scenic Routes. Rent a car, hit the road, and these routes offer the best possible way to explore our beautiful country without relying on tour groups or mass transportation.
This collection of driving routes covers the whole of Norway and are defined by their stunning views of fjords, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers combined with incredible and innovative viewpoints, art installations and rest areas that are designed to complement the nature surrounding them. Combine some of these routes with stops in Norway’s cities, and you can effectively experience the nature, art and design, world-class infrastructure and naturally socially distanced cities Norway is best known for.
More information on our National Scenic Routes can be found at – https://www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/en/routes
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Portugal?
According to Visit Portugal:
While we don’t yet know exactly when most American travelers will be allowed to visit Portugal again, visitors from European countries are currently experiencing the country’s most popular places with fewer people. For those that can travel, this may be the ultimate time to see Sintra without crowds. Also, general behavior guidelines were enacted, in which all people must adopt a social distance (2 meters) and the use of face masks is mandatory in public transport and services, shops and supermarkets, in closed spaces or in places with many people.
What have you learned about travel in Portugal during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Perhaps the most surprising element of today’s travel industry is that Portuguese citizens are finally discovering parts of their own country that they had never seen. Whether it’s to the Azores, Madeira or less traveled mainland regions, it’s been exciting to see domestic tourism swell in the last few months. But what we have found out is that our assets are still there, our beaches continue as blue as ever, our monuments, our nature, our sceneries are as beautiful as ever. Maybe food and wines are tastier now that we have reopened and can go back to enjoying our amazing restaurants!
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some over-touristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Portugal and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
While Portugal has seen a marked increase in visitors over the last few years, particularly from the USA, it’s still a large increase from a relatively small base. Our visitor numbers aren’t even close to those seen by major European destination standards but it is still an opportune time to examine what is working, what could be done better and what needs to change. Our commitment is to find passionate travelers who care about nature and culture – and who are interested in getting beyond our biggest cities for some of our lesser-known regions.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Portugal after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
The research we’ve seen from travelers in the time of COVID-19 all points to visitors wanting to experience quieter locations with lots of nature. Especially rural areas and coastal communities. The Azores and Madeira are both ideal, but travelers should also look at the vast, uncrowded landscapes of Alentejo, the smaller, lesser-known beach towns in Algarve, or exploring the amazing towns and villages in the Center of Portugal region and Northern Portugal.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Flanders and Belgium?
According to Marco Frank, Trade Manager, VISITFLANDERS:
The biggest change travelers will experience is a renewed focus on health and safety standards. Just like any other destination, Belgium has taken measures to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. These measures impact locals and guests alike and can be seen in all walks of life. A “re-start” of tourism would not have been possible unless every person involved in the tourism industry had been properly trained and all applicable health and safety standards had been implemented, be it at the airport, hotels, transportation, museums, attractions and everyday life.
The “new normal”, a phrase often used these days, will also apply in our destination. VISITFLANDERS has created a special COVID-19 webpage specifically for the travel trade to communicate the most up to date information and applicable rules.
You will also find a tourism sector that is eager to welcome American travelers back to the destination and Americans can certainly expect a very warm welcome. The US is the number one non-European source country for our destination. We know how important Americans are to our tourism sector and we know how much Americans love our destination. But it is also understood, that it might take some time before Americans are allowed to travel again to European countries.
What have you learned about travel in Flanders during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Health and safety standards and the communication of these standards and rules are absolutely essential. Domestic tourism has only been open since the middle of June, so it is a very limited re-open time frame. Not all hotels and attractions have opened up at this time. But the ones that are open have seen guests booking and coming to the destination. Interestingly, there has been an uptake in reservations for 2021 from guests booking in the hope that the crisis will be over by then. We are also focusing a lot on promoting domestic tourism and from neighboring countries.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Flanders and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Overtourism has been a much-talked topic in the global travel industry before the pandemic. Flanders realized many years ago that our destination could be heading in the same direction. We had seen many negative examples around the world. And although our destination was far from it, we saw it as an early warning sign.
Trying to be pro-active, we asked ourselves a few fundamental questions a few years ago: how do we ensure there is a healthy balance between the interests of residents and visitors? How can we honor and maintain the natural richness and historical authenticity of our destinations? How can we read the signs of the times in order to ensure that our beloved Flanders remains a pleasant place to live, do business in, and visit? How can tourism ensure that our local communities in all of those wonderful places continue to thrive in such a way that genuine hospitality goes without saying?
We set to work across the whole of Flanders with our partners. The result of this exceptional and co-creative process is our new tourism policy of the future. This new policy aims to balance the overall interest of the destination, its local residents and entrepreneurs and of our visitors. The old winning formula ‘More is better’ does not work anymore. Success factors that are purely based on quantitative numbers, e.g. arrivals and overnights will become less important. Qualitative measures, such as the visitor experience will be in the foreground.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Flanders after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
There are many wonderful, traditionally less visited, places in our destination. One fantastic aspect of our destination is the incredible breadth to experiences that we can offer to the passionate visitors, whether they come for our art & history, culinary experiences, cycling or nature. And these are just a few of the many reasons to visit Flanders. If visitors still prefer to explore a smaller city that offers rich cultural experiences but may have been “underrated” (to pick up the wording from your question), take a look at Mechelen, Leuven, Genk or Kortrijk. All of them are great cities that traditionally had been easily overlooked by visitors. Each city offers unique experiences. As one example, take Kortrijk. It has a rich history reaching back to Roman times. Today it features a well-preserved city center with amazing architecture and museums. It also has a great restaurant scene with many young chefs creating outstanding culinary experiences.
Kortrijk has located in-between Flanders Fields and the Flemish Ardennes and can be your hub for exploring both areas. Flanders Fields, the area where many battles if WWI where fought is a great place to re-trace 20th century world history but also engage in great culinary/beer and cycling experiences. The Flemish Ardennes is the place of tranquil villages and rolling hills. Another great area for cycling, hiking or nature experiences.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit France?
According to Marion Fourestier, Director of Communications USA, Atout France-France Tourism Development Agency:
As of June 15, all of mainland France and most of the French Overseas regions, including the French West Indies have removed all restrictions for domestic travel and have been categorized as “green” zones. And EU internal borders have reopened to non-essential travel, not to mention that Tahiti is welcoming back travelers on July 15 from the EU and US to its French Polynesia islands. And since July 1, a group of 15 non-European countries have been cleared for non-essential travel to France & most other European countries. There will be a reevaluation for what is called third countries allowed back into Europe every two weeks, and we know that there are close contacts between the U.S. and EU to workout non-essential travel between the United States and Europe according to recent news reports.
To date, the biggest changes that American travelers are likely to experience are smaller crowds in France’s most popular destinations, like Paris, the Cote d’Azur/French Riviera (although this might change in late July & August with the French encouraged to vacation at home & visits of European travelers). Most museums and monuments, big and small, are in the process of reopening. These cultural institutions are implementing socially distant visits, including mandatory mask-wearing and whenever possible online reservations and no-contact payment for admission. Which means that crowds there will also be smaller—seeing the Mona Lisa will be a lot easier and enjoyable. To prepare for the lifting of the lockdown in France and to reassure guests and future guests, hotels & restaurants have implemented the French Government’s sanitary protocols or hotel groups have developed their own, like the ALLSAFE program of the Accor Group of Hotels.
What have you learned about travel in France during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
It’s a little early to answer this question, but I would say that the crisis has confirmed and accelerated the French Government’s and our agency’s goal to develop and promote sustainable and more eco-friendly travel. Many French cities, including Paris, are extending their already extensive network of cycling paths and tram service. According to recent reports from several French regions, many residents are staying close to home and choosing the slow tourism path—which means taking advantage of the many regional bike paths and hiking trails that are widely available throughout France. As an example, the Loire Valley has over 3000 miles of bike trails, most of them dedicated.
In mid-June Atout France and our partners launched a campaign called “This summer I’m visiting France” to stimulate domestic travel and we’ve seen a dramatic increase in reservations for houses and private villas, particularly in the south of France. These reservations indicate that there’s a larger movement to get ‘back to basics’ which we saw pre-pandemic but are witnessing more now that people want to spend time with their friends or family rather than visiting a “must-see” site.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in France and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
For two decades now, Atout France has worked to promote lesser-known destinations within France on the U.S market, meaning, getting American travelers to visit other destinations than Paris and Provence. We have been partially successful, seeing American travel increasing in the Rhone-Alps (now known as Auvergne-Rhone-Alps), as well as in the Midi-Pyrénées (now known as Occitanie) or the Bordeaux area (New Aquitaine) It is conceivable, that this trend will grow and accelerate because Atout France and our regional and city tourist office partners are aware that all visitors (U.S. visitors included) will be looking for more socially distant destinations or activities. They will be looking even more for quality, authenticity and what will be perceived as safer environments.
So Atout France & its regional partners are promoting the richness of their natural sites, smaller cities and other off-the-beaten-track destinations. An example of France’s rich cultural offerings, is the Voyage à Nantes, capital of the Western Lire (A journey to Nantes) which offers a striking itinerary of outdoor installations and sculptures through the city & from Saint-Nazaire to the seaside resort of La Baule, known to have one of France longest beaches. Social distancing along the Journey is easy here.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to France after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Every region of France offers areas that are less traveled. The Paris Region offers great walks and other activities in the forests of Versailles and Fontainebleau—to name a couple. Or the Auvergne area of Auvergne Rhone-Alps Region, which boasts a regional park of 80 dormant volcanoes—yes volcanoes in France, BTW mainland & overseas France boast 10 spectacular National Parks and 53 Regional Natural Parks. The New Aquitaine boasts lovely perched villages and bastides in the Dordogne area and the hinterlands of the Provence and Cûte d’Azur offer nature walks–like in the Mercantour National Park–and small villages that are just waiting to be explored. And let’s not forget the coastal region of Brittany which is spectacular and recommended for those who love Maine here in the U.S. And for that matter Western France from North to South is one uninterrupted Atlantic Coast and we are fortunate that Southeastern France lies along the Mediterranean.
A smaller city like Tours, Orleans or Amboise in the Loire Valley are historic cities that will offer visitors a fascinating immersion into France’s history, but also of how the French live now and an insight into France’s creativity. They will also give visitors easy access not only to the world-renowned castles, like Chambord or Chenonceau that can be reached by car or via the Loire a Velo bike path—with a rented bicycle, but will open the doors to the lush natural environment of the great Loire River. And speaking of bikes, there’s a lovely wine route in Alsace that can be cycled from just North of Strasbourg, down to Mulhouse via Colmar—the birthplace of Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty.
Of course, I could go on and on—because there are so many choices everywhere in France, But I would close suggesting that U.S. travelers also consider The French West Indies, like the larger islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, they have striking tropical forests, pristine beaches and an incredibly rich Creole & French heritage cultures. It would be a perfect fall & winter gateway.
Finally, I would like to say that we are eager and looking forward to welcoming back our American friends and travel professionals. And to plan their trip we invite everyone to visit us.france.fr.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Finland?
According to Heli Mende, Head of Visit Finland North America:
The Government of Finland has been very cautious with opening the borders as the pandemic situation has been well in control in Finland. When the pandemic calms down in the U.S. and our borders are open again for U.S. travelers, we do not expect that the Americans will see any major changes – at least not for worse. Our tourism service providers are eagerly waiting to welcome the international travelers as soon as it is possible. In the beginning it probably will be more quiet in all our destinations as it will take some time for tourism to pick up.
What have you learned about travel in Finland during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Finland opened its borders to the Baltics, Norway, Denmark and Iceland in June and we are seeing travelers from those countries. On July 13, borders will be opened to another set of European countries who are showing approximately 8 or less diagnosed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. We expect a modest flow of travelers in August, which is the main holiday month in central and southern Europe. Finnish people have been busy traveling domestically and this supports our tourism service providers. July is the main holiday month in Finland and the Lakeland region has fully booked all of its rental villas.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Finland and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Only during Christmas in Lapland or during the peak summer season in Helsinki when there are several cruise ships in the port, is when there has been a slight feeling of a “rush hour” in Finland. We are a large country (the 8th largest from land space in Europe) and there is plenty of space for travelers to roam. Even though Finland in general has had very few over-tourism issues, Visit Finland together with DMO´s and tourism companies have launched a Sustainable Finland program last year. Our goal is to continue promoting Finland as a year round destination to better support the tourism service providers as well as avoid over-tourism situations. Our nature is our biggest tourism asset and we must protect it with sustainable activities and by promoting responsible travel.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Finland after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
The whole country of Finland is a GREAT off the beaten path destination for people who enjoy nature and learning about new, local cultures. Nature is easily accessible from anywhere in the country and due to our history, our culture has been influenced by both east and west. We have one of the largest lake districts in Europe and the largest archipelago in the world. During the summer months, the days are long and there is plenty to do from kayaking to golfing, from hiking to fishing. Sauna (a Finnish word, by the way), is a big part of our culture and when visiting Finland, one should at least once experience a real Finnish sauna. For us Finns, the best sauna is by the lake or by the sea enabling cooling dips in the fresh waters. Renting a villa by the lake or sea is recommended for those who enjoy slow life on their vacation.
In the north, in Lapland, there is the midnight sun where the sun does not set for 6 weeks. It’s even possible to go golfing in the middle of the night! That region is a paradise for active travelers. In the wintertime, the same region turns into a winter wonderland with the Northern Lights. There are many smaller, less crowded destinations and resorts in Lapland which offer upscale, secluded winter holiday experiences with glass igloos or aurora hut accommodations, huskies, reindeer, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing. Northern Lights are possible to be seen 200 hundred nights (depending on the weather, of course) a year in Finnish Lapland and the season for the Aurora Borealis runs from September to April, as long as the nights are dark enough.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit the Czech Republic?
According to Michaela Claudino, Director of Czech Tourism:
The Czech Republic has managed the pandemic fairly well, there were roughly 12,000 cases with around 350 death. The country is going through its last phases of reopening. As of July 1st, face masks will only be required at events with 100+ people and in public transportation in Prague. As of June 22nd, Events up to 1,000 delegates may be held under increased hygiene measures and events up to 5,000 delegates can be held as well if divided into groups up to 1,000 delegates. Social distancing is still encouraged (6 feet), hotels & venues have strict hygiene protocols in place. The Czech Association of Hotels and restaurants launched a program called Stay Safe through which hotels can apply for this special label if they fully comply with all the requirements. So overall, no drastic or dramatic changes, on the contrary, the travel experience might be more pleasant as the destination will try to avoid overcrowding in certain areas & stricter measures or cleanliness and hygiene be implemented.
What have you learned about travel in the Czech Republic during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Well, I think this experience was and still is a learning curve for all of us. Starting with the very basics – not taking certain things for granted, seeing how travel and tourism are very important for all of us, for the economy and how interconnected we all are. One of the positive experiences might be that Czechs are rediscovering their own country, and at the same time seeing how dependent we are on foreign guests. We went from one extreme to another from overtourism to almost zero tourism which also allows us to rethink certain tourism policies, introduce new products and look for more meaningful ways to travel. What was a surprise during the pandemic (and it even made it in the news) was the way how Czech citizens mobilized in a national effort to make and distribute home-made masks after the government made it mandatory to wear masks, but they were not always easy to find in stores. So Czechs started making the masks at home and distributing them to where ever it was necessary. It was nice to see people coming together in the time of crisis.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in the Czech Republic and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
As mentioned above – we went from one extreme to another. Our tourism board effort has been for a while to promote areas outside of Prague and showcase the whole destination. We are working on incorporating sustainability into our main marketing strategy, we have been actively promoting hiking & biking in the Czech Republic, encourage overnights in smaller towns when combining various destinations in Central Europe, etc.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to the Czech Republic after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Not many people know that not only the Czech Republic is an incredibly diverse country. We have 14 UNESCO world heritage sites, over 2,000 castles and chateaux, and amazing national parks.
Visit smaller UNESCO sites in Moravia such as Telc, Kromeriz or Olomouc. All three towns are located in Moravia (eastern part of the country. In Kromeriz, visit the stunning archiepiscopal castle and its gardens. The Flower Garden is a unique Baroque gem of garden architecture, and it has been restored recently.
North of Kromeriz is Olomouc, a university city with much to offer visitors, yet one that is still just off the beaten path for tourists. From Prague it is about 2.5 hours by direct train, and it is well worth visiting for a weekend to discover some of the most beautiful churches in the Czech Republic. Olomouc has been nicknamed “ a small Prague” for its beautiful architecture and baroque heritage.
And Telc, another small town in Moravia looks like straight from a fairytale with its pastel color Renaissance houses and one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.
When you feel like going for a hike and catch some beautiful vistas you can choose one of the national parks. My first tip would be the Bohemian Switzerland. Bohemian Switzerland lies north of Prague towards Dresden near the German border and is one of the smallest national parks in the Czech Republic. There you can find rock walls, deep forests, and long scenic valleys, as well as the largest sandstone arch in Europe and rock walls perfect for climbing.
My second tip would be the Sumava National Park – the deep forests on the Czech-Bavarian border which is the largest forested area on the continent. A combination of centuries-old forests, crystal-clear glacial lakes, and mysterious peat bogs creates a unique place for an active holiday or the whole family.
Given the proximity to the border, the national park was for many years a strictly patrolled area where people were not allowed, and therefore the local landscape was able to retain its rare beauty and purity.
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Wallonia and Belgium?
According to Pierre Coenegrachts, Deputy CEO & Spokesman, Wallonia Belgium Tourism:
First of all we all here are looking forward to welcoming back US citizens as soon as possible. The first thing before travelling to Europe & Belgium in particular would be to go to the official Belgian foreign office website www.diplomatie.belgium.be which is also in English.
You must go to the “Travel to Belgium section” and read what is requested, at the moment a Mandatory form for air travel to Belgium “Public Health Passenger Locator Form”.
If you land from the US to Europe in another Schengen zone country, local rules might also apply.
But mainly, before booking your flight, you should ask your travel agent or airline company, either by phone or on the website, which are the conditions to fly and travel to Europe.
Everything in Belgium is set to welcome US visitors as it is right now for any other European citizen. Go to www.visitwallonia.be, the official website of Wallonia Belgium Tourism (south Belgium) and look for the “Covid19” section.
Mainly social distancing in hotels, restaurants, museums, wearing a mask inside shops and public transports, and preferably pre-booking for any visitor accommodation.
What have you learned about travel in Wallonia during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
At the moment people are mainly traveling within their own countries in Europe. In Belgium, we are experiencing more bookings for city trips, accommodations or attractions and museums from Belgian citizens. Roughly around 40% during this summer period instead of 10 to 15% previously (% of Belgian citizens having holidays during July August).
Since mid-June, some borders have been re-opened and we also get a few tourists from Holland, France and Germany (all border countries of Belgium).
Globally because of restrictions and limited capacity in tourist sites, museums, attractions because of Covid19, people have learned to book their visits ahead even for smaller sights (castles, gardens, museums…). It means that you have fewer visitors as usual during a “normal” period which is in some way a better opportunity for a quiet and not crowded tour even if for the owner of the attraction or castle for example it means less income!
Everyone is looking forward to coming back to “business as usual” but in the meantime, everyone is anxious about Covid19 coming back at the end of summer. So sanitary regulations are very important to follow for everyone.
Since July 11th, wearing a mask is compulsory in shops, shopping malls, museums, libraries, and generally when visiting indoor exhibitions or activities.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Wallonia and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
As already explained, operators in the tourism industry are experiencing a new way of promoting their products and, for smaller entities also, with digital pre-booking. It means that from now on most of the reservations for visitor stays in Wallonia will be available with online booking. Before the COVID period only 40% were available online!
We also realized that fewer visitors in the same time to a specific area means more comfortable visits for everyone, less pollution in some parks, lakes or rivers activities. So it is a bit early to talk about a new way of visiting Europe or Wallonia but mass tourism will most probably totally different in the coming months and years. Smaller groups, less groups at the same time in the same area, mandatory pre-booking for limited visitors. All this must be discussed to match the return on investments for the tourism sector.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Wallonia after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Wallonia, the south and French-speaking part of Belgium, is developing for several years now slow tourism discoveries and activities. Walking and cycling routes have been set to discover our nature and our culture. Circuits with different kinds of difficulties from easy to heavy are offering a wide range of discoveries with local specialties such as beer, chocolate, cheese, among others. Meeting the locals in small groups in one of our Beautiful Villages of Wallonia where crafts shops or local breweries will open their doors only for limited visitors. Local tourist boards are organizing these walks or routes along rivers and lakes, among forest and woods around castles and villages. Everything is to be found on www.visitwallonia.be
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Sweden?
According to Visit Sweden & Visit Stockholm:
Fewer crowds and limited capacity at popular tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc., some closed businesses, public transportation not running as frequently and with limited capacity. In Sweden, face masks are not widely used by the general public. The Public Health Agency hasn’t issued a recommendation to wear masks due to the risk of it creating a false sense of security.
In general, the Swedish society has not been closed down to the same extent as many other countries. This involves for example the following:
-Restaurants, bars and cafés are still permitted to operate, if adhering to new legislation (offering table service, adjusted seating, take-away, etc.).
-Many shops and stores are open but may have limited opening hours.
-Most museums and theatres are closed but open-air alternatives may be open (check opening hours before visiting).
-Public transport is in operation but may be limited. Please check regional services for details and follow the guidelines on domestic travel and public transport.
-National parks are open. For more information, please visit the Swedish National Parks website.
Still, physical distancing applies and all businesses in Sweden must take precaution to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (https://visitsweden.com/about-sweden/information-for-travellers-corona-virus/)
What have you learned about travel in Sweden during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Many Swedes are vacationing in Sweden, and trying new things for the first time, eg hiking and boating.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Sweden and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Most destinations have redirected their marketing efforts towards Swedes, instead of international travelers. But Visit Stockholm doesn’t consider overtourism to be an issue.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Sweden after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Some examples of smaller cities that have a lot to offer:
They all offer cultural sights, natural attractions, swimming, restaurants, shopping, etc.
It is also very easy to go camping, hiking, swimming, biking, or paddling in Sweden due to “Allemansrätten”, the Right of Public Access, which is granted by the Swedish constitution and gives you free access to the great outdoors –100 million acres. 97% of Sweden is uninhabited so there is a lot of space to social distance. https://visitsweden.com/where-to-stay/camping-sweden/
What will be the biggest change that American travelers are likely to experience when they eventually visit Croatia?
According to Luci Jerkovic, Head of Global PR, Croatian National Tourist Board:
Currently, US travelers fall under exemption 2f, which took effect July 10th.
US travelers fall into the category of other foreign nationals and may enter Croatia for business, tourist reasons or other economic interests in the Republic of Croatia, as well as for pressing personal reasons, provided they are able to provide relevant evidence. Prior to travel visitors are required to fill in a travel form available via Enter Croatia – https://entercroatia.mup.hr in order to reduce waiting time upon border crossing/entry and register their planned travel, after which they will receive confirmation and the latest epidemiological travel instructions. Confirmation of accommodation booking is required for tourist reasons and includes:
-Confirmation of accommodation booking of all accommodation service providers / all types of accommodation
-Camp lease contract
-Permanent berth contract in a nautical tourism port
-Confirmation of berth reservation in a nautical tourism port
-Travel agency voucher etc.
On July 10, 2020, Croatian Institute for Public Health has specified all third-party citizens including US citizens who have grounds for entry to the Republic of Croatia with the following reasons (purpose) for entry:
• Personal non-standard reasons (e.g., own property in Croatia) must undergo mandatory 14-day self-isolation, at their own expense. Self-isolation can be reduced to 7 days if such persons provide nose and throat swabs and receive a negative result of the PLR test on SARS-CoV-2 at their expense within seven days upon arrival to Croatia;
• Persons entering the Republic of Croatia for tourism or other business purposes as well as study can enter Croatia without mandatory 14-day self-isolation, assuming they provide a negative PCR test result for SARS – CoV-2, not older than 48 hours (counting from the time of arrival to the border crossing), or with a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, at their expense, in the absence of the PCR test. Quarantine/self-isolation can be shortened to seven days if such person takes the PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 within seven days upon entering Croatia and receives a negative test result.
You can find more information on the following link https://www.htz.hr/en-GB/press/press-releases/recommendations-and-instructions-croatian-institute-public-health-passengers-crossing-state-border-republic-croatia
Croatia currently expects that travelers are opting to travel only if they are healthy, ready and/or have the need to travel that cannot be postponed, namely ‘responsible travel’.
Any Americans that do opt to travel to Croatia will likely be surprised only by the lack of crowds in cities like Dubrovnik, but pleasantly surprised by the ability to travel the country with ease and the health and safety protocols in place.
What have you learned about travel in Croatia during the limited re-opening of tourism that you have experienced so far? Any surprises?
Croatia focused its promotional efforts on car destinations within driving distance and with similar epidemiological situations to Croatia, while borders slowly opened from May onwards. What was surprising was the exceptionally high level of interest above our expectations. With new ideas on how to limit risk and enable travel to Croatia, an example being a private train service provider from the Czech Republic offering service from Prague to Rijeka – a new offer. We also have a higher than expected number of guests for the first half of July, approximately 50% of tourist traffic numbers for the same period.
Overall, should the epidemiological situation remain satisfactory and everyone does their part in following health and safety protocols, tourism is possible even with COVID-19. It is also necessary to monitor the situation daily, with additional care and concern for everyone’s health and wellbeing being the focus of all in the industry, with everyone working together to manage this as effectively as possible given the uncertainty and ever-changing nature of the virus itself.
If there’s a silver lining to be had for European travel during this crisis it may be that some overtouristed destinations have had a chance to have a break and re-imagine their tourism strategy. Is this a consideration for any destinations in Croatia and if so, what adjustments could we see made going forward?
Even prior to the pandemic, Croatia was concerned and focused on creating sustainable and viable tourism, taking into account all aspects including over-tourism. Looking forward, Croatia is entering a new strategic period and will certainly take the learnings from this period into account when working on its promotional and tourism development going forward. We do see the need for further content creation, digital tools and services and guest management for high-traffic destinations being highlighted, while new tourism products that emerge and provide social distancing options may very well continue to be an offering that will be sought by guests.
For those American travelers who might want to use their first trip to Croatia after the crisis as an opportunity to get off the beaten path by exploring a less-touristed, underrated destination (which also happens to be a great way to practice social distancing), where would you suggest?
Americans tend to prefer destinations like Split, Dubrovnik, Pula, Rovinj and Zagreb – however, Croatia offers a multitude of other options – amazing islands and nautical tourism options, National Parks, smaller cities with a great cultural mix, as well as inland opportunities to explore the continental part of the country. Instead of Split, Šibenik and Zadar are great alternatives or the smaller yet equally interesting city of Trogir, which is not far from Split’s airport.
Or any of the islands of Solta, Brac, Hvar or Vis. While sailors may prefer the Kornati islands further north. Near Dubrovnik, one might prefer Cavtat further south, or Korcula as an island destination, with the island of Mljet being home to a National Park and providing a peaceful option nearby. Aside from Pula and Rovinj in Istria, stationing oneself in inland Istria at one of many small towns with amazing villas and food options, would definitely provide a great getaway – be it someplace like Motovun or Groznjan or any of many other towns only miles away from the coast.
Further south of Istria in the Kvarner region, the sanctuary may be found in places like the island of Mali Lošinj which offers a small airport for private charters and high-end accommodation or the adjoining island of Cres that caters to those looking for a more unique experience. Whereas Zagreb provides great access to surrounding areas and ease of access to most continental areas including Slavonia, Zagorje, central Croatia, Lika, Gorski Kotar and others – with options to stay in smaller hotels or private accommodation in the rolling hills near the capital and taking day-trips to explore some of the amazing castles, museums or National Parks, while taking in some great farm-to-table family-owned restaurants or visiting any of many vineyards in the area. While those looking for a more active option can try kayaking, cycling or hiking throughout any of the mentioned areas and later relaxing at one of many thermal spas only a short drive away.
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