FOLLOWING a long period of strict entry conditions, heightened hygiene protocols, and swift vaccine deployment, the summer of 2022 finally demonstrated that it is now largely possible to travel the world once more. Most tourist destinations in the MENA region, Europe, and the world have started to welcome throngs of travellers back.
Wego looks at some of the latest developments in travelling and offers some tips on how to navigate the new travel landscape.
While the rising demand for tourism is generally considered a good thing, some destinations have also expressed concerns about overtourism.
In 2021, Hawaii was left in disarray 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 waiting times, and the overall strain on local infrastructure as well as the island’s diverse ecosystem.
The state of Hawaii proceeded to implement measures such as increasing prices and doubling fees on popular activities in the hopes of deterring potential visitors to the island. In other words, Hawaii is aiming for sustainable tourism by focusing more on ‘quality tourism’ rather than quantity.
Several high-profile destinations are following suit. New Zealand, for example, has announced that they are now looking to attract ‘high-quality tourists’ as opposed to those who are less affluent. The government aims to better manage the tourism industry by avoiding overcrowding and improving sustainability.
Bali is also looking to shake its ‘backpacker legacy’ by stating that the island is aiming for ‘quality tourism’ as announced by one of Indonesia’s top ministers. While there hasn’t been any formal ruling on banning backpackers, the fact that officials have stated 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 opt for a more selective entry approach. While some will maintain 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’re planning on departing from or arriving in some of the major European airports, be advised that you’re likely to experience snags in the current climate. Back then, the aviation industry was forced to cut down thousands of jobs as a direct consequence of the pandemic; it’s 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 to a daily limit of 100,000 departing passengers as the airport struggles to recruit and train new staff.
Similarly, Amsterdam’s Schiphol has stated that it would reduce daily passenger numbers by 18% until at least 31 October due to labor shortages.
Additionally, strikes and schedule cuts are also affecting flights as pilots, cabin crew, ground staffers and other crew members demand increased pay and better working conditions.
British Airways announced in August that the airline would continue to make cancellations until the end of October. British Airways’ winter schedule is also predicted to suffer an 8% reduction which would impact around 10,000 flights.
If you’re planning to fly soon, note that in addition to British Airways, other airlines such as RyanAir, Lufthansa, EasyJet, and Norwegian Air are also similarly affected.
Countries around the world are beginning to come to terms with the possibility that the COVID-19 virus may never fully go away. As continued isolation is no longer a sustainable option, even the strictest of countries are now beginning to open up.
Case in point, after having closed its borders for more than 2 years, Japan is now officially open for tourism from 7 September. Further, the Japanese authorities have also announced that starting on 11 October, the country will officially drop its ban on independent travellers, resume visa-free access, and remove the cap on daily visitors.
New Zealand has also reopened its borders and is now allowing all travellers to enter without any testing or vaccine requirements. Travellers are only required to complete a Traveler Declaration form to be issued a travel pass before their flight. The travel pass 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 completely lifted. This means travelling is still mostly synonymous with rules and precautions, such as adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, as well as self-isolation.
However, bolstered by dropping infection rates and rising vaccination rates, many countries have moved toward relaxing restrictions in a bid to entice visitors.
For example, the UAE has now lifted most COVID restrictions with the mask requirement now deemed optional in public areas. Testing remains in place for unvaccinated travellers looking to enter the UAE.
Dubai hotels continue to implement heightened 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 safety precautions. COVID passports to enter public places are also being enforced in Abu Dhabi.
As of late, COVID-related travel restrictions have been scrapped in a total of 74 countries. This means that most international travellers 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 you finalize your flight or travel plans, you may wish to consider the following:
- Expect changes to your flight booking. With airports implementing caps and strikes grounding flights, there’s a good chance that your flight may get cancelled altogether.
- It may be wise for you to shift your focus to possible cancellation costs rather than early bird discounts. While it may seem obvious to book earlier to get lower fares, you might be better off anticipating cancellations instead.
- Shorten your booking period. While you may be able to book your flight a month or two ahead of your trip, there’s no guarantee that your flight will operate on your flight date. By adopting a shorter booking window, the chances of things going wrong will significantly be reduced.
- Familiarize yourself with your rights as a passenger before booking your flight. In the case of your flight being 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, travelling may, unfortunately, be more expensive. Expect a general increase in prices, fees, and even government-levied tourist taxes.