Countries dependent on tourism are working to reopen borders in order to help their economies badly damaged by the pandemic.
The World Travel and Tourism Council says the tourism industry lost almost $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. The airline business alone lost $126 billion last year and may lose another $48 billion this year.
Government officials in many countries hope that they can welcome vaccinated visitors. But as the summer months get closer, timing is important.
Virginia Messina is the leader of the World Travel and Tourism Council. “Summer is a strong season for most markets,” she said. “We really hope to see restrictions ease.”
Almost every country in the world has a different policy for international travelers. That could make it hard for anyone planning a vacation. Here is how different parts of the world are starting to reopen to travelers:
Reopening has been slow in Europe, which has been hard for Greece, Spain and Turkey. The Mediterranean countries are heavily dependent on tourism.
But recently, the European Union, or EU, ambassadors agreed to permit visitors who are fully vaccinated. People from countries considered safe from COVID-19 are also permitted to enter. The changes require approval from EU member countries and it is unclear when they will take effect.
Spain will let British and Japanese visitors enter the country if they have been vaccinated. People from other countries, including the United States, can start to come in June 7.
Many tourists are already starting to arrive in Greece. In early May, Greek officials decided to accept vaccinations and tests from the EU and 21 other countries.
Croatia has also reopened. It is one of the few European countries that Americans can visit. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik this summer.
The virus is rising again across parts of Asia, causing many nations to slow down their reopening.
Hong Kong and Singapore delayed the opening of a quarantine-free area for visitors after rising cases of infection. Hong Kong also lengthened the required quarantines for many unvaccinated visitors. And visitors in China have to show recent record of virus testing.
Thailand had closed its borders and kept the virus under control for most of last year. Foreign visitors were slowly permitted to enter last autumn under strict controls. But the country is closed to many tourists again after infections rose quickly in March.
Narong, a worker in the Bangkok entertainment industry, said, “I am very angry with the government. They should have done better.”
Africa and the Middle East
At the height of the pandemic last year, the United Arab Emirates closed its borders and airports to travelers. The capital, Abu Dhabi, still has strict measures including required quarantines for fully vaccinated residents returning from some countries.
In UAE’s biggest city of Dubai, officials have welcomed travelers since last July with few restrictions other than a negative COVID-19 test. The city is hoping to draw Europeans looking to escape quarantines to its beaches, nightlife and entertainment.
Saudi Arabia does not permit tourists to enter the country. But Egypt is trying to draw more tourists even with a new wave of infections in the country.
During the Eid holiday, beaches, cafes and restaurants stayed open. Egypt also lowered the cost of tourist visas, though it requires a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Visitors to tourist economies in the Caribbean fell by two-thirds last year. Bermuda was among the hardest hit, suffering an 84 percent drop.
Some islands, including Bonaire, Martinique and Montserrat, still ban travel from most countries. Other islands, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have created special areas for tourists.
Mexico has no flight restrictions, no requirements for visitors to pass a test or quarantine upon arrival. That has kept a small but continuing number of tourists to its beach towns.
That approach, however, may have led to the spread of the virus. In the beach towns of Cancún and Cozumel, infection and hospitalization rates are rising. And the government has started limiting crowds in public places.
U.S. and Canada
The United States continues to ban most visitors from Europe, China, India, Brazil and other places. International travelers to the U.S., including American citizens, must pass a COVID-19 test before going on airplanes.
The U.S. State Department is telling citizens to avoid foreign travel. And Canada remains closed to most travelers from the U.S.
I’m Jill Robbins.
And I'm Dan Friedell.
David Koenig and Menelaos Hadjicostis reported this story for the Associated Press. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
tourism— n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure
timing — n. the time when something happens or is done especially when it is thought of as having a good or bad effect on the result
flight — n. a journey on an airplane
quarantine — n. the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading
resident— n. someone who lives in a particular place
negative — adj. not showing the presence of a particular germ, condition, or substance