Spring is already making a tentative appearance in my region of the country. I’m enjoying the daily delight of going outside to inspect even the most minuscule changes that the warmer weather brings – an unfamiliar birdsong, a single red tulip, the way the light hits the top of the trees after dinner. If you are in an area where you woke up to a fresh layer of snow blanketing your lawns this morning you are likely feeling a bit overdue for a sign, any sign. Spring comes in stages.
As a tour company we have been inspecting the global landscape for encouraging signs of new life for travel after its (years-long) hibernation. And, while there is still some uncertainty on the timing for many places around the world, we are observing mounting evidence that a new season is indeed emerging. Perhaps you are too. But, like spring, it’s coming in stages.
6 Signs of Life in the Travel Landscape
All kinds of data is showing that demand for travel is roaring back after its long pause. Travelers are booking their spring and summer trips, airline ticket sales are exceeding pre-pandemic sales for the first time, and on March 20th, TSA reported screening 2.3 million people—the single highest one-day total since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago. Expedia’s CEO predicts that this summer will be “the busiest travel season ever.”
Face mask requirements are being lifted.
Recently, some international airline companies have lifted their mandatory mask requirements. While it’s still required to wear a mask on all American carriers, some expect the mandate could end as early as April. Companies like Delta, American and United are pushing hard on the government arguing that current rules for masks don’t account for “the realities of the current epidemiological environment.”
Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to fall.
We’ve had to endure quite a few setbacks over the past couple of years, but we are feeling cautiously optimistic. Case numbers dropped to the lowest levels in the US since June of last year. It has also continued its decline for weeks despite relaxed restrictions. The CDC reports, “As of March 23, 2022, the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases decreased 5.4%.” With less virulent strains dominating the landscape and high numbers of people vaccinated and/or recovered, death rates and hospitalizations have also dropped dramatically. Bloomberg reports, “As more governments shift to treating the pandemic as endemic, the rise and fall of restrictions—and changing entry rules—ought to become simpler.”
Europe is cautiously opening its borders again.
Tourism in Europe is picking up again. You can expect some variety in requirements still, but overall the situation is improving. Here are some of the latest encouraging signs that our favorite destinations are increasingly navigable:
- Slovenia now allows all travelers, regardless of their country of origin or vaccination status, to enter Slovenia without being required to provide proof of their vaccination or recovery status.
- UK, Ireland, Romania, and the Canary Islands did away with all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions for arrivals from other countries in March.
- Sweden has removed the travel ban for non-essential travel.
- France has lifted the Covid passport requirement to enter public venues and no longer requires fully vaccinated travelers to show a negative test.
- Vatican City has reopened its doors to tourism.
- In March, the European Council advised people who received vaccines be authorized to enter the EU without prior testing if they received the last dose of their primary vaccination series at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival.
Asia is beginning to open up.
Countries that strictly prohibited tourism during the pandemic have recently reopened to travelers. Vietnam and Cambodia removed the proof of vaccination and testing on arrival requirements. Thailand is open with just a single night hotel stay for vaccinated travelers and is expected to drop its “72hr PCR test before departure” test shortly. South Korea announced that the seven day quarantine will no longer apply to fully vaccinated travelers from abroad beginning April 1st.
Venues are bustling!
Shopping, dining and entertainment are back in most places with relaxed capacity and restrictions.
Navigating the emerging and staggered seasons in the travel landscape requires expertise and up-to-date information. Overall, though, the trends for summer and fall of 2022 look very encouraging. This is welcome news for travelers and for the people and economies that rely on tourism. We could all use a break in the weather.