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Many countries reopen for tourism


COMING on the heels of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearing people who are fully vaccinated for travel, and inoculation programmes picking up steam in major markets, a number of countries are starting to welcome tourists — even as they emphasise the need to continue observing COVID-19 safety protocols.

Among them are the Maldives which have announced that tourists will no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the archipelago as long as they are fully vaccinated against the virus at least two weeks before travelling to the islands.

“Travellers to Maldives (including tourists) who have completed their two doses of COVID-19 vaccination (recognised by WHO) two weeks prior to travel are now exempted from the pre-arrival negative PCR requirement and do not require to undergo or observe the travel quarantine on arrival to the Maldives,” the country’s Ministry of Tourism said in a statement.

It added that people who have not been vaccinated can still visit the islands so long as they have a negative test result.

The Seychelles also announced that they were open to all travellers — vaccinated and unvaccinated — according to a report in Conde Nast Traveller, one of the tourism industry’s leading trade publications..

According to Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde, the small Indian Ocean nation made up of more than 100 islands off the east coast of Africa is reopening because it has successfully implemented an aggressive vaccination campaign among residents.

Seychelles added that it has no quarantine requirements for visitors but is requiring a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before arrival. Additionally, visitors must have travel health insurance to cover the cost of COVID-19 care and isolation if necessary.

Visitors from South Africa, though, are still barred from entry due to a variant strain of the novel coronavirus.

Conde Nast Traveller also reported that Iceland is among the destinations now open to tourists, saying that vaccinated and previously infected travellers from all countries can once again visit. Visitors who can show proof of vaccination or previous infection are not required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight or ship to Iceland, but they are required to take a test when they arrive in the country, quarantine for five to six days, then take another test. Once that test result comes back negative, they are free to travel around the country.

At the same time, visitors from certain high-risk countries must stay in specific government-run facilities for their five- to six-day quarantine after arriving.

Belize is among the countries listed by Conde Nast as open for visitors.

Travellers, the magazine reported, “must bring their official COVID vaccine card showing that they’ve been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks, or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 96 hours of arrival (48 hours for a rapid test). Visitors can also take a COVID-19 test after arriving at the airport for $50”.

Georgia, the former Soviet republic located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, is another nation that is now open to fully vaccinated visitors from many countries, including the USA, so long as they are arriving by air directly from an approved country.

“Unvaccinated travellers must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival, and are required to take a follow-up test on their third day in the country,” the Conde Nast report said, adding that Georgia requires a 12-day quarantine period for all visitors who have travelled through the UK within two weeks of arrival.

The Conde Nast report also listed Ecuador, the Galpagos Islands, Guatemala, Croatia, and Montenegro as the other countries that have reopened for visitors.

All are trying to recover from the devastating blow that the pandemic has delivered to tourism.

In January this year, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported that global tourism suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping by 74 per cent.

“Destinations worldwide welcomed one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 than in the previous year, due to an unprecedented fall in demand and widespread travel restrictions. This compares with the four per cent decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis,” the UNWTO said.

The agency revealed that the collapse in international travel represents an estimated loss of US$1.3 trillion in export revenues — more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis.

The UNWTO also reported that the pandemic has put between 100 and 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk, many of them in small and medium-sized enterprises.

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