AFTER a long period of strict entry requirements, enhanced hygiene protocols, and rapid vaccination deployment, the summer of 2022 finally proved that it is now largely possible to travel the world once again. Most tourist destinations in the MENA region, Europe, and the world have begun to welcome many travelers back.
Wego takes a look at some of the latest developments in travel and offers some tips on how to navigate the new travel landscape.
While the rising demand for tourism is generally seen as a good thing, some destinations have also expressed concerns about overtourism.
In 2021, Hawaii was left in a frenzy as tens of thousands of American tourists descended on the Aloha State. Some of the negative effects of overtourism in Hawaii include congested roads, long restaurant wait times, and the overall strain on local infrastructure as well as the island’s diverse ecosystem.
The state of Hawaii has continued to implement measures such as raising prices and doubling fees on popular activities in hopes of deterring potential visitors to the island. In other words, Hawaii aims for sustainable tourism by focusing more on “quality tourism” rather than quantity.
Several high-profile destinations are close by. New Zealand, for example, has announced that they are now looking to attract “high-end tourists” as opposed to those who are less wealthy. The government aims to better manage the tourism industry by avoiding overcrowding and improving sustainability.
Bali is also looking to shake off its “backpacker legacy” by saying the island is aiming for “quality tourism” as announced by one of Indonesia’s top ministers. Although there has been no formal ruling to ban backpackers, the fact that officials have indicated their inclination towards quality tourism means that the insinuation of backpackers being unwanted will persist.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted governments and tourism boards around the world to adopt a more selective entry approach. While some will argue that this “quality over quantity” mentality will lead to sustainable tourism, others will inevitably consider that the arrival of the new world means the age of budget travel is coming to an end.
If you are planning to arrive from or to some of the major European airports, be advised that you are likely to experience snags in the current climate. At the time, the airline industry was forced to cut thousands of jobs as a direct consequence of the pandemic; it is now struggling to cope with the overwhelming demand for travel.
London’s Heathrow is currently implementing a cap on the number of passengers flying from the airport until the end of October. This translates into a daily limit of 100,000 passengers departing as the airport struggles to recruit and train new staff.
Similarly, Amsterdam’s Schiphol indicated that it would reduce daily passenger numbers by 18% until at least October 31 due to labor shortages.
In addition, strikes and schedule cuts also affect flights as pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and other crew members demand increased pay and better working conditions.
British Airways announced in August that the airline would continue to cancel until the end of October. British Airways’ winter schedule is also expected to suffer a reduction of 8%, affecting around 10,000 flights.
If you plan to fly soon, note that in addition to British Airways, other airlines such as RyanAir, Lufthansa, EasyJet and Norwegian Air are similarly affected.
Countries around the world are beginning to face the possibility that the COVID-19 virus will never completely disappear. As further isolation is no longer a sustainable option, even the strictest countries are now starting to open up.
Case in point, after closing its borders for more than 2 years, Japan is now officially open for tourism from September 7th. Further, the Japanese authorities also announced that as of October 11, the country will officially drop its ban on independent travelers, resume visa-free access and remove the cap on daily visitors.
New Zealand has also reopened its borders and now allows all travelers to enter without testing or vaccination requirements. Travelers are only required to complete a traveler declaration form to be issued a travel pass prior to flight. The passport must be presented at the departure airport, as well as at check-in and at customs in New Zealand. Testing is recommended but not required.
There are still countries and destinations where COVID-related restrictions and recommendations have yet to be fully lifted. This means that travel is still mostly synonymous with rules and precautions, such as adherence to mask wearing and social distancing requirements, as well as self-isolation.
However, buoyed by falling infection rates and rising vaccination rates, many countries have moved to relax restrictions in a bid to attract visitors.
For example, the UAE has now lifted most of the COVID restrictions with the mask requirement now considered optional in public areas. Testing remains in place for unvaccinated travelers traveling to the UAE.
Dubai Hotels continue to implement enhanced health and hygiene protocols to ensure the safety of guests and staff. Elsewhere in the Emirates, Abu Dhabi hotels are also implementing similar levels of security measures. COVID passports to enter public places are also enforced in Abu Dhabi.
Recently, COVID-related travel restrictions have been lifted in a total of 74 countries. This means that most international travelers are allowed to visit these countries regardless of vaccination status and test results.
The aftermath of the pandemic has added to the unpredictability of flight bookings for essentially everyone. Before finalizing your flight or travel plans, you may want to consider the following:
- Expect changes to your flight booking. With airports implementing caps and strikes on ground flights, there is a good chance that your flight may be canceled entirely.
- It may be wise for you to shift your focus to possible cancellation fees rather than early bird discounts. While it may seem obvious to book earlier to get lower rates, you can better anticipate cancellations.
- Shorten your booking period. Although you may be able to book your flight a month or two before your trip, there is no guarantee that your flight will operate on your flight date. By adopting a shorter booking window, the chances of things going wrong are significantly reduced.
- Familiarize yourself with your rights as a passenger before booking your flight. In the event that your flight is grounded, you may be entitled to another flight, a refund, and even compensation depending on the jurisdiction.
- With some destinations now adopting a more selective approach to tourism, travel can unfortunately be more expensive. Expect a general increase in prices, fees, and even government-imposed tourist taxes.