A passenger wears a face mask she travels on a Delta Airlines flight Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Amid fears of new variants of the virus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people start to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

A passenger wears a face mask she travels on a Delta Airlines flight Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, after taking off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Amid fears of new variants of the virus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people start to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Around the globe, coronavirus cancels spring travel for millions

It means more pain for airlines, hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations that were already struggling

They are the annual journeys of late winter and early spring: Factory workers in China heading home for the Lunar New Year; American college students going on road trips and hitting the beach over spring break; Germans and Britons fleeing drab skies for some Mediterranean sun over Easter.

All of it cancelled, in doubt or under pressure because of the coronavirus.

Amid fears of new variants of the virus, new restrictions on movement have hit just as people start to look ahead to what is usually a busy time of year for travel.

It means more pain for airlines, hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations that were already struggling more than a year into the pandemic, and a slower recovery for countries where tourism is a big chunk of the economy.

Colleges around the U.S. have been cancelling spring break to discourage students from travelling. After Indiana University in Bloomington replaced its usual break with three “wellness days,” student Jacki Sylvester abandoned plans to celebrate her 21st birthday in Las Vegas.

Instead she will mark the milestone closer to home, with a day at the casino in French Lick, Indiana, just 50 miles (80 kilometres) away.

“I was really looking forward to getting out of here for a whole week. I wanted to be able to get some drinks and have fun — see the casinos and everything — and honestly see another city and just travel a little,” she said.

“At least it’s letting us have a little fun for a day in a condensed version of our original Vegas plans. Like, I’m still going to be able to celebrate. … I’m just forced to do it closer to home.”

Flight cancellations will keep Anthony Hoarty, a teacher from Cranfield in England, from spending Easter with his family at their bungalow on the Greek island of Crete, a trip already postponed from last October. A trip to Mauritius last Easter also fell victim to COVID-19. “It’s the uncertainty,” he said. “You can’t plan things. It’s not knowing if the government is going to change its mind, if the other countries in Europe are changing their mind about travel.”

“I love going to our house – I’d walk if I could,” he said.

They could holiday in Britain but with most people grounded, places may be booked up or expensive: “The chances of us doing anything are pretty remote, actually.”

At bus and train stations in China, there is no sign of the annual Lunar New Year rush. The government has called on the public to avoid travel following new coronavirus outbreaks. Only five of 15 security gates at Beijing’s cavernous central railway station were open; the crowds of travellers who usually camp on the sprawling plaza outside were absent.

The holiday, which starts Feb. 12, is usually the world’s single biggest movement of humanity as hundreds of millions of Chinese leave cities to visit their hometowns or tourist spots or travel abroad. For millions of migrant workers, it usually is the only chance to visit their hometowns during the year. This year, authorities are promising extra pay if they stay put.

The government says people will make 1.7 billion trips during the holiday, but that is down 40% from 2019.

Each news cycle seems to bring new restrictions. U.S. President Joe Biden reinstituted restrictions on travellers from more than two dozen European countries, South Africa and Brazil, while people leaving the U.S. are now required to show a negative test before returning.

Canada barred flights to the Caribbean. Israel closed its main international airport. Travel into the European Union is severely restricted, with entry bans and quarantine requirements for returning citizens.

For air travel, “the short-term outlook has definitely darkened,” said Brian Pearce, chief economist for the International Air Transport Association. Governments have poured $200 billion into propping up the industry.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization says international arrivals fell 74% last year, wiping out $1.3 trillion in revenue and putting up to 120 million jobs at risk. A UNWTO expert panel had a mixed outlook for 2021, with 45% expecting a better year, 25% no change and 30% a worse one.

In Europe the outlook is clouded by lagging vaccine rollouts and the spread of the new variants.

That means “there is a growing risk of another summer tourist season being lost” said Jack Allen-Reynolds at Capital Economics. “That would put a huge dent in the Greek economy and substantially delay the recoveries in Spain and Portugal.”

Travel company TUI is offering package vacations in the sun in Greece and Spain, but with broad cancellation provisions to attract cautious customers. Places that can be reached by car, such as Germany’s North Sea islands and the Alps, are benefiting to some extent because they offer a chance to isolate. The German Vacation Home Association says the popular locations are 60% booked for July and August already.

Thailand, where about a tenth of the population depends on tourism for its livelihood, requires a two-week quarantine for foreigners at designated hotels costing about $1,000 and up. So far, only a few dozen people a day are opting to visit. Tourist arrivals are forecast to reach only 10 million this year from 40 million in 2019.

Gerasimos Bakogiannis, owner of the Portes Palace hotel in Potidaia in Greece’s northern Halkidiki region, said he is not even opening for Western Easter on April 4 but will wait a month for Greek Orthodox Easter on May 2 — and, he hopes, the start of a better summer.

“If this year is like last year, tourism will be destroyed,” he said.

___

McDonald contributed from Beijing and Smith from Indianapolis. Elaine Kurtenbach contributed from Bangkok and Costas Kantouris from Thessaloniki, Greece.

David McHugh, Casey Smith And Joe McDonald, The Associated Press

Coronavirustravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chemainus Communities In Bloom.
Signs of spring are closing in around us

Chemainus Communities In Bloom provides gardening tips for March 2021

Different options for uses continue to be explored for the former St. Joseph’s School in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Further options explored for uses of the former St. Joseph’s School

Committee seeks possibilities that will meet certain criteria

Texting and driving seems like it’s a habit many people are never going to break. (Photo by Boaz Joseph/The Leader)
Distracted driving still a big issue

Campaign in March aimed at getting people to leave their phones alone

Taking over as minister of the Chemainus United Church has been great for Elise Feltrin despite pandemic restrictions. (File photo by Don Bodger)
World Day of Prayer being conducted by Zoom Friday

People invited to watch a video and then participate in a follow-up discussion

Letters to the editor.
Australia a model for solving its freighter anchorage problem

A vessel arrival system just might provide an answer

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read