COVID-19 Update: Five Countries Which Will Open For Tourism This Summer

These five top holiday destinations have vowed to open up their countries for tourism this summer season after getting COVID-19 under control.

Corona virus

Due to the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak, flights across the world have been grounded and borders shut for all but essential traffic.

Although these drastic measures have been necessary to contain the virus, it has caused huge damage to the world economy, with perhaps not a single sector as hard hit as the travel industry.

Summer holiday

Tourists across Europe and the wider world are therefore keeping a close watch on the news as they wonder whether their planned summer holiday might still go through, while those who did not have a holiday booked wonder which countries will be opened for tourism before making definite travel plans.

Although it is still too early to say with a full 100 percent certainty whether countries will indeed be opened for tourism, a number of countries has already signaled that they plan to open up their borders and welcome in tourist numbers. Below we have made an overview of five beautiful countries which should make for an excellent summer destination!

Austria

Austria is one of the countries which have taken immediate action against COVID-19 and where restrictions are now slowly loosened. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already announced his wish to reopen Austria to travellers from “safe countries” in which the virus outbreak is also under control.

If you can indeed visit Austria this summer, it would make for a great opportunity to visit the cultural delights the country has to offer in cities like Vienna and Salzburg.

Of course, with the Alps running along its spine, Austria would be easily one of the top choices for those wishing to seek out mountain nature this summer.

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Schoenbrunn Palace is one of the highlights of Vienna. ©Paliparan
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If you seek great mountain scenery, then Austria and the Alps might be your best bet this summer. ©Paliparan

Croatia

Croatia has been one of the first countries to signal their intention to open up for tourists this summer. Although it is not yet sure whether everyone is welcomed in or only travellers from neighbouring countries in Central and Eastern Europe, it is for sure one of the more likely destinations for an European holiday.

If it does open up for tourism, there is a lot to discover in Croatia. The country has one of the largest and most beautiful coastlines of Europe and the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea are always inviting for a dip. Whether you opt for a coastal destination on the mainland or on one of the many islands, which range from party hotspots such as Pag to more quiet islands like Dugi Otok, there is a great variety of places to choose from.

The country is also famous for its national parks such as the famous Plitvice Lakes and for its cultured city life in the capital of Zagreb or in cities such as Zadar, Split and of course Dubrovnik.

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The city walls and old town of Dubrovnik could be yours to discover this summer! ©Paliparan
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Zadar is a beautiful city on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. ©Paliparan

Georgia

As a more off-the-beaten-track destination which has become quite popular with foreign visitors over the last years, Georgia is looking at the possibility to open up the country again for foreign tourists starting 1st July.

There is a huge amount to see in this small country wedged in between Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Mountain lovers will be attracted to the wild scenery of the Caucasus Mountains, culture lovers and party animals will have much to look forward to in the capital of Tbilisi.

As a country which is widely considered as the cradle of viticulture, those wanting to try some of Georgia’s excellent wines should head to the area called ‘Georgian Tuscany’ centred around the lovely town of Sighnaghi where winemakers use century-old techniques. Georgia’s subtropical Black Sea coast centred around the fun-loving town of Batumi also makes for a great summer destination.

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Watching the sunset from the Batumi pier. ©Paliparan
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Sighnaghi, famous for its wine, is one of Georgia’s most beautiful towns. ©Paliparan

Greece

As one of the countries which is hardest hit by the previous economic crisis and which is highly dependent on its tourism industry, Greece has always been one of the countries more eager to open its borders for foreign travellers.

Fortunately, Greece has also been one of the countries which has made a great effort to curb COVID-19 at an early stage with some drastic lockdown measures. This is now showing its effect as the Hellenic state has one of the lowest numbers of infections and deaths in Europe.

The Greek government has announced its intention to open up for tourism on 1st July, with the tourist season lasting three months until the end of September, with an extension into October and November possible if no sudden surge of COVID-19 infections is detected.

Whether tourists from all over Europe and the wider world will be able to visit Greece is still the question. Interestingly, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis is even in talks with the governments of Australia and Singapore in an effort to perhaps also welcome visitors from a select few non-European countries.

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The island of Serifos in the Western Cyclades. ©Paliparan
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A quiet beach and taverna on the island of Paros. ©Paliparan

Italy

The fifth and last country on our list is perhaps the most surprising of all: Italy. Sure, it is one of the European countries which has been hit hardest by the corona virus. That said, most of the casualties have been in the hard-hit areas of Lombardy and Veneto in the north of the country, while the south has remained relatively unscathed.

Especially the two biggest islands of Sicily and Sardinia – both major tourist destinations – are talking out loud of opening up for tourists this summer. The Sicilian government has even allocated a 50 million euro budget to reimburse half of the flight costs and a third of accommodation costs of foreign tourists taking a holiday on the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Sardinia meanwhile is pushing an effort to introduce special corona health passports. Although both islands do have some autonomy, they are still dependent on the Italian government to decide whether or not national borders will be opened, which should be more clear in the next few weeks.

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The main square of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. ©Paliparan
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Drinking a glass of white wine at a beach bar on Poetto Beach in Cagliari, Sardinia. ©Paliparan

Caveats

As I already wrote before, there might still be some caveats – so do not use this article as a definite answer to the question whether or not you can travel to any of the aforementioned countries.

A sudden rise in corona cases might result in countries backtracking from earlier promises. We also still do not know the exact conditions in which tourists are welcomed. Will for example special health passports or certificates be compulsory? Will citizens from all countries be welcomed or only those of a select few nations?

Travel bubble

Some countries might end up choosing for a case-by-case approach in which tourists from certain countries where the virus is also under control and which are trusted by the government are welcomed in, while tourists from other countries might still be shut out.

For example, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been in talks with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to open the tourism sector in both countries for citizens from both countries.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have agreed to open their borders for intra-Baltic tourism by citizens of the three countries. We might very well see the creation of more of such ‘travel bubbles’ based on geographic proximity, political relations and COVID-19 case numbers.

Open or closed?

Because of these reasons it is still to early to say with a definite yes or no whether you can visit the country of your choice this summer. Perhaps Greece might open its borders for tourists from the Balkans, Turkey, Germany and Austria but at the same time still refuse travellers from Britain, Spain and the US.

Portugal could perhaps open for Brits, Spanish and French tourists but might close its doors for Italians. There is simply no way telling what will happen before a definite green light is given by the respective authorities.

And even if a country welcomes you in as a tourist – you should also check regulations of your own home country. It could be the case that upon your return you might need to go through a 14-day (home) quarantine or isolation. France is for example one of such countries who have introduced a quarantine which even counts for French citizens returning home from abroad!

And then there is the issue of flights..

Although this article might give you a broad idea which countries should open for tourism, how travel might look like and what kind of government measures might be taken, it is still too early to give a final answer.

I can only recommend you to watch the news closely and to check any measures with great care. In some situations you might be subject to four different sets of rules and regulations (home country, destination country, transit country and airline rules) so you might need to look up a lot of information!

Let’s say you want to travel from Vienna, Austria to Tbilisi, Georgia for your summer holiday – but the only flights going there are with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. In this case you need to check not only local Austrian and Georgian regulations, but also whether any measures are in place in Turkey which could affect you as a transit passenger.

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Turkish Airlines is one of the few airlines which already announced that many flight routes across Europe will be resumed this summer. ©Paliparan

Airline operations

You also want to check very carefully which rules and possible change waivers the airline has in place, as the last thing you want is finding yourself stranded abroad or seeing your flight cancelled before you even arrive to your home airport for departure!

Check on the airport website or a site like Flightradar24 whether the airline in question is already operating the flights you want to book. If for example Turkish Airlines is already operating the Vienna-Istanbul and Istanbul-Tbilisi flights on a daily basis, chances are big it will continue doing so.

I would have much more confidence in such flights operating according to schedule than those of an airline which is not yet operating a route but is promising it will commence with operations again on a certain date in the future. Such a start date of a flight route could easily be moved further out or indefinitely postponed altogether.

Airline X may very well say it will again start flying on the 10th of July, but the bottom line is that an airline continuing a certain flight schedule already in place is probably much more reliable than an airline which has yet to start up operations again.

If you plan on driving or taking a train to your holiday destination, check regulations of all transit countries you will pass through. If you are British, German, Dutch or Belgian and are welcome to visit Spain, it might still be not possible to do so by car if France does not allow for any transit!

In short

These are challenging times and there is no way to say for sure how the situation will look like this coming summer, which will surely be the most unusual tourist season ever in the history of modern-day tourism.

I would take extreme caution when booking a holiday and advice to keep a close watch on all travel news from multiple countries. If you get the green light, then book and travel as soon as possible. There might be some accommodation bargains to be found, but flight prices could be more expensive than usual due to the more limited supply as airlines across the world are likely to keep most of their fleets grounded.

That said, if you can take a holiday this summer, then do so! The tourism industry and local population desperately needs your money and it would surely mean a lot to them!

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Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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