(CNN) – The world’s largest tourist playground has been surrounded since it became a coronavirus epicenter, but as summer looms, Europe is desperate to lift restrictions so that visitors can inject much-needed cash in disaster economies.
Across the continent, various countries currently sitting behind the quarantine or sealed border firewalls are finding out how they can accommodate vacationers again.
On Wednesday, the European Union unveiled an action plan for the reopening of its internal borders, to relaunch safely its hotel sector and to relaunch the rail, road, air and maritime links which were strangled during the pandemic.
It’s a situation eagerly awaited by millions of potential travelers, desperate to enjoy a slice of sunshine and European culture after weeks or months locked up at home.
“We all need a break, especially after this kidnapping,” said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market. “We want to enjoy the summer holidays, we would like to see our families and friends even if they live in another region, in another country.
“But we want to be able to do it while staying healthy and safe because we know the virus will stay with us for a while.”
The EU currently has recommendations in place for all its member countries to restrict all non-essential visitors from outside. But with falling infection rates in some countries, that should change.
Some countries, like Greece, already name specific dates. Others, such as Austria and Germany, are already lifting the internal borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that many restrictions on the EU’s internal borders will be lifted by June 15.
There is even talk of allowing special “green corridors” or “travel bubbles” that would allow certain countries with low or sharply declining infection rates to open up to a few destinations until the reopening of borders.
These measures were supported in the EU plan which proposes to lift restrictions between member states of “sufficiently similar epidemiological situations”, in other words, the same rate of coronavirus infection.
Visitors from outside, however, could face an indefinite wait.
The EU plan also sets out a roadmap for developing health and safety protocols for beaches, hotels, campsites, bed and breakfasts, cafes and restaurants to protect customers and employees, such as allowing people to pre-book time slots at the gymnasium or swimming pools.
It also aims to strengthen the rules giving travelers the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for canceled transport tickets or package tours.
EU member states have also agreed on protocols to ensure that tracking apps work across borders so that citizens can be warned of potential coronavirus infection when traveling inside the block .
“It will not be a normal summer, not for any of us,” said Margrethe Vestager, vice-president of the EU executive, the European Commission. “But when we all work together and we all do our part in the paths that the Commission is defining today, we do not have to face a stuck summer or a completely lost summer for the European tourism industry. . “
While these new measures will help bring some order to a somewhat chaotic travel situation across the continent, it remains a fluid situation.
For now, if you plan to travel to or in Europe in the coming months, here is what you need to know:
France is the most visited country in the world, but the coronvirus crisis has paralyzed tourism here.
PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
Travelers with France topping their list of places to visit after the coronavirus crisis has subsided should be prepared for a long wait.
From now until at least July 24, anyone entering the country, except EU citizens or arrivals from the United Kingdom, will be subject to a mandatory 14-day coronavirus quarantine.
However, hotels may be allowed to resume operations in the coming weeks.
The French hotel chain Accor has closed nearly two-thirds of its hotels, while those that remain open are used to support healthcare and front-line staff, as well as “vulnerable populations”.
“Good news is the initial recovery in the Chinese hotel market, with a slight improvement in occupancy and catering activity: an encouraging sign,” an Accor spokesperson told CNN.
Pending the green light from the government, the workers “have set safety standards and rigorous cleaning protocols” with a view to reopening them.
Although they don’t expect many, if any, international visitors in the coming months, much of Accor’s revenue comes from domestic travel, which is expected to increase significantly if border restrictions remain in place while restrictions are relaxed.
“When the lockdowns soften, French tourists will likely want to stay close to home in the short term,” added the spokesman.
“It will be a time for them to rediscover their own country and we will be there to welcome them.”
Greece hopes to welcome visitors again in June.
Russell Yan / Pixabay
Greece could end up becoming one of the first European destinations to open up again to tourists.
The Mediterranean nation has managed to keep its death rate from coronavirus at a remarkably low level, with only 150 deaths from Covid-19 so far, by enforcing a strict lockdown from the start.
However, all summer holidays in Greece in 2020 will be very different from those of previous years for obvious reasons.
“This summer’s tourism experience may be slightly different from what you have had in previous years,” Mitsotakis told CNN earlier this month.
“Maybe no bars are open, or no crowds, but you can still have a fantastic experience in Greece – provided the global epidemic is on a downward path.”
Urban hotels in Greece are slated to reopen on June 1, followed by seasonal hotels a month later.
Currently, all international passengers must pass a Covid-19 test upon arrival in Greece, but Mitsotakis suggests that tourists will soon have to undergo tests before their visit as a precaution.
Although the country is preparing to receive visitors again, getting there will prove to be a challenge for most.
Currently, all third-country nationals are barred from entry into Greece until May 18, while the majority of low-cost airline routes, which constitute a large part of the air arrival of the countries from neighboring countries, are suspended.
However, Mitsotakis is counting on an influx of “more high-end tourists” to help revitalize the country’s tourism industry, which employs one in five Greeks.
The new beach protocols in the town of Spanih Sanxenxo will involve the allocation of sunbathing on a “first come, first served” basis.
Courtesy of Diario de Arousa
The foreclosure of Spain turned out to be one of the strictest in Europe – children were prohibited from leaving the house entirely at any given time.
But the popular destination, which welcomed a record 84 million visitors in 2019, is slowly easing restrictions, the beaches are expected to reopen in June, and hotels in parts of the country have been allowed to resume operations.
However, the authorities are naturally cautious about the reopening of the country, and it seems unlikely that the current border restrictions, which prohibit non-essential travel to Spain for anyone other than Spanish citizens, residents and border workers, will change before the end of the summer season.
“The border issue will go hand in hand with the evolution of the health crisis,” he said.
“Therefore, I do not have the solution when [they will be able to open]. On how you can enjoy our beaches, we define different scenarios. “
One or two of these “scenarios” have already been announced, with a number of cities establishing new protocols to maintain measures of social distancing on crowded stretches of sand.
Canet d’en Berenguer, a Mediterranean town just north of Valencia, will only allow 5,000 daily sunbaths on its local beach when it reopens, while Sanxenxo in Galicia will allocate entry to its beach according to the principle of first come, first served.
Both demarcate small sections on the sand to ensure that bathers can maintain a safe distance from each other, a move that may well indicate the future of beach visits.
Last week, a senior government official admitted that the country’s tourism industry could not start again until all of the EU’s internal and external borders are reopened.
“A large part of our economy depends on the movements of international visitors and the Spanish,” said the official.
“But we have to have a health system that can take care of everyone in Spain. This is the basic question.”
Italy is slowly lifting restrictions after weeks and weeks of foreclosure.
ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images
Italy was one of the destinations most affected by the pandemic, with a “very long” lockdown imposed in March, but the beautiful country may not remain out of bounds much longer.
The Italian government has said it expects the borders to be open to tourists in the summer, although a drop in numbers is expected for obvious reasons.
Currently, the country, along with the rest of the EU, currently has restrictions in place on all non-essential travel outside the Schengen area (a group of 26 countries that normally have open borders) – with the exception of the United Kingdom.
In addition, neighboring Austria and Switzerland have imposed heavy restrictions on cross-border travel, while many airlines have canceled the majority of their flights to Italy, so reopening will not be an easy process.
However, officials seem keen to make a difference.
“I have never spoken or thought of closing the Italian borders to tourists for 2020,” said Giorgio Palmucci, president of the Italian National Tourist Office (ENIT), last month. “I work exactly the opposite.”
All museums, including the Vatican Museums in Rome, are slated to reopen slowly in May. However, strict social distancing rules will apply, tickets purchased in advance online.
The German authorities are in no hurry to reopen its borders.
Maja Hitij / Getty Images
Germany has managed to somewhat contain its death toll from coronaviruses through substantial testing and contact tracing, but officials have seemed reluctant to let tourists in.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to end border controls in the Schengen area within a few weeks.
“The goal is – if the infection process allows – I want to emphasize this – that from June 15 border controls in the Schengen area can be completely eliminated,” she said on Wednesday. .
A spokesman for the Austrian Ministry of Tourism said that the chancellors of the two countries had agreed to open the border initially for day trippers and commuters. A second stage would see a normalized reopening from June 15.
Germany remains closed to non-EU visitors, while many border crossings to neighboring states such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland are closed or guarded.
Hotels are currently prohibited from hosting tourists and the majority of flights to and from Germany remain grounded.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas previously expressed concern over the overly rapid reopening of destinations, stressing that European countries should come together to decide on the best course of action.
Visitors to the United Kingdom must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Maja Hitij / Getty Images
The British government’s decision to introduce a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals at the same time it began to ease restrictions on residents has dashed all lingering hopes of reviving international tourism here in the coming weeks.
The move, which is said to be indefinite, is believed to deter airlines from quickly restarting flight operations, and authorities have warned the British that their prospects for summer escape abroad are slim.
Asked in a BBC television interview about whether British citizens should book flights in July, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “I am saying that you cannot travel abroad in this where the direction of this virus is going and therefore where the travel tips are in the future. “
According to current plans, hotels are expected to start opening in early July, but as EU border restrictions are still in place, the UK should focus on domestic travel before further decisions are made.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no indication of when this is likely to happen.
Portugal welcomed 24 million tourists in 2019.
Regiao de Turismo do Algarve
Portugal has also started to relax its lockout restrictions, allowing hair salons, dry cleaners and repair shops to reopen.
Although it seems doubtful that international visitors can return before 2021, the destination has already put in place measures to mitigate the effects.
This applies to all bookings made through accredited travel agencies, as well as hotels or Airbnbs, for trips scheduled between March 13 and September 30, 2020.
Companies will have to comply with hygiene and cleaning requirements for prevention and control of Covid-19, in order to receive the stamp, which is valid for one year.
The objective here is to stimulate the recovery of the sector by reassuring visitors that everything is being done to ensure their protection.
But like most other European countries, Portugal will have to rely on the business of domestic travelers while border restrictions will remain intact.
Croatia has suffered from over-tourism before, now the destination is keen to recover travelers.
ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP via Getty Images
However, the current restrictions on foreign nationals are expected to remain in effect until June 15.
Any non-national authorized to enter may be ordered to isolate himself or to spend 14 days in official government quarantine facilities “at the expense of the traveler”.
But the authorities hope to get around this problem by introducing a special “green corridor” between itself and the Czech Republic, another destination with a low number of cases of coronavirus this summer.
This would effectively mean that all Czech tourists who can provide documents proving that they are not infected with the virus would be allowed to travel to Croatia.
A photo taken from Mont-Pelerin, in French-speaking Switzerland, on November 20, 2016, shows the towns of Vevey (below) and Montreux (background) on Lake Geneva. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images)
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images
But that doesn’t mean things have returned to normal when it comes to traveling within the country.
Only Swiss citizens and permanent residents, as well as those who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons, are currently allowed to enter the country.
National tourism industry recovery plans are advancing, museums, bars and restaurants are expected to reopen this week, followed by hotels near the end of May.
The Czech Republic was one of the first European countries to close its borders in March.
Pixabay / Creative Commons
Croatia is not the only country with which the Czech Republic is likely to share a “green corridor”.
Proposals for a similar arrangement with Slovakia, one of the first European countries to ban international passenger travel, are apparently underway.
Both countries have closed their borders to non-citizens and residents, as well as Ukraine, Hungary and Poland, with a mandatory quarantine of 14 days for anyone coming from abroad.
Although the governments of the above-mentioned countries have not clearly indicated when the borders will be reopened, wearing a face mask in public spaces is now compulsory in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
As the Czech Republic and Slovakia have expressed an interest in opening international tourism only to less affected destinations, it is safe to assume that officials will not be in a hurry to welcome travelers from these heavily affected destinations, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Spain and Italy.
Scandinavia and the Nordic region
Swedish government chooses not to lockout
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP
As one of the only European countries not to have locked out, Sweden has few restrictions to lift.
However, its borders are still closed to countries outside the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, and these measures should remain in place for the time being.
Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin admitted that the country’s tourism sector has been “incredibly tough” due to the lack of travelers.
Lovin said it was wrong to suggest that the more relaxed approach meant that business was going on as usual in Sweden.
“A lot of small businesses are on their knees because production is down or down a lot.
“It is not business as usual in Sweden but on the contrary, things are very, very hard.”
Neighboring Austria plans a gradual return to normality, with the reopening of hotels from May 29.
“We want to offer our guests a wonderfully relaxed stay and of course we make sure that all hygiene rules are followed,” says Hannes Muller, who runs the hotel.
Meanwhile, Denmark plans to lift its remaining lockout restrictions by the second week of June.
The Prime Minister of the country, Mette Frederiksen, has already raised the possibility of reopening the borders, warning that this could move things “in a negative direction”.
“It can help move the infection in a negative direction. Of course, borders must also be seen in the context of what is happening in the countries around us.” Frederiksen went on to suggest that Denmark would not reopen its borders until “at least”.
Iceland introduced temporary internal border controls last month, banning all foreign nationals except EU nationals and associated European countries. All people arriving from outside the country must make a quarantine of 14 days since April 24.
The Nordic country is now preparing to reopen with the aim of repairing part of the damage caused by the closure.
The Icelandic government plans to start easing restrictions on international arrivals by June 15.
Although the details have not yet been confirmed, it is expected that travelers will have the choice between a test on arrival or a two-week quarantine.
“Although Iceland is an island, it has always prospered through trade and international cooperation,” said Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson in a statement.
“With only three cases of virus diagnosed in May, we are once again ready to open our doors carefully to the world.
“Although we remain cautious, we are optimistic as a country that we can successfully begin our return to normalcy.”
Lithuania is about to join a “travel bubble” with the other Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia.
PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP / Getty Images
The borders of the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been largely closed to foreign travelers due to the pandemic.
But from May 15, each will lift restrictions for citizens of the other, creating the first official “green corridors” or “travel bubble” of the European Union.
“I think we will respect this principle when we deal with countries where the situation is very bad, which have not taken measures to control the spread of the virus.
Skvernelis then suggested that Poland and Finland could be invited to join further down the line.
However, anyone traveling outside the “bubble” across countries will have to quarantine for two weeks.
CNN’s James Frater, Max Ramsay, Lindsay Isaac, Stephanie Halasz, Al Goodman, Mick Krever and Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.