Opinion: Tourism’s Chaotic Reopening May Be Worse Than Not Reopening At All

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw


When Europe began its gradual reopening to tourism in JUN, it did so with a hodgepodge of “travel bubbles,” ever-shifting timelines, virus testing and self-quarantine requirements.

Now, about a month into the reopening plan, the situation is no less clear. Uncertainty and last-minute changes continue as the coronavirus situation evolves and a potential second wave takes hold in Europe and Asia. 

"All the confusion raises the spectre that reopening for international tourism when the pandemic isn’t just far from over — but far from even stabilized in many places — could have a worse impact on tourism in the long term than the marginal gains in the short term," writes Rosie Spinks, global tourism reporter at Skift.

Only weeks after the U.K. included Spain on a list of countries safe for holiday travel, it surprised many tourists this past weekend when it announced it would remove Spain from its quarantine exemption list. Then there was the Bahamas, which last week barred Americans from visiting, only to re-accept them yesterday, albeit with a requirement to quarantine. 

"There are a variety of actors that determine when and whether a destination reopens," she explains. 

"The are government policies in source markets, government policies in the destination itself, and the individual decisions of business owners and operators about whether it’s economically feasible to open for a lower number of arrivals. This matrix of factors mean that any 'reopening' is less a coordinated strategy, and more a hope that everyone stays aligned for long enough to see a summer season. However, with governments that have proved as fickle and unpredictable as Boris Johnson’s — which changed its policy on foreign travel three times in one month — uncertainty is to be expected. Spain’s tourism industry is simply the latest casualty of its chaos."

Tourism businesses need revenue to survive. That's a given. But these jagged reopenings could lead to added costs that sink small operations without reliable cashflow. 

"As many small businesses have painfully learned recently, spending the cash to reopen in keeping with new guidelines — only to find out days later that business isn’t coming after all — can be the difference between just hanging on or closing shop entirely," Spinks says.

"In addition, the confidence of travellers is already shaky, having survived the March global shutdown where many had traumatic experiences at borders, in airports, and long, fruitless waits on airline phone lines — and even longer waits for refunds. As the European Tourism Association’s Tim Fairhurst told Skift last week, there’s a considerable and understandable fear in some tourists’ minds about getting 'stuck' on the wrong side of the border. More news of scrambling at airports or having to cancel a trip right as you were gearing up to go won’t help restore travellers’ long term confidence."

When it comes to tourism right now, there are no easy answers, Spinks concludes. And now, a month into the great reopening experiment, "it’s worth pondering whether it not only carries public health risks, but economic ones too."

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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