Omicron unravels travel industry’s plans for a comeback

Tourism businesses that were just finding their footing after nearly two years of devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are being rattled again as countries throw up new barriers to travel in an effort to contain the omicron varian.

 

From shopping districts in Japan and tour guides in the Holy Land to ski resorts in the Alps and airlines the world over, a familiar dread is rising about the renewed restrictions.

 

Meanwhile, travelers eager to get out there have been thrown back into the old routine of reading up on new requirements and postponing trips, said an AP report.

 

Less than a month after significantly easing restrictions for inbound international travel, the U.S. government has banned most foreign nationals who have recently been in any of eight southern African countries. A similar boomerang was seen in Japan and Israel, both of which tightened restrictions shortly after relaxing them.

 

While it is not clear where the variant emerged, South African scientists identified it last week, and many places have restricted travel from the wider region, including the European Union and Canada.

 

For all the alarm, little is known about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, causes more serious illness or can evade vaccines.

 

Still, governments that were slow to react to the first wave of COVID-19 are eager to avoid past mistakes. The World Health Organization says, however, that travel bans are of limited value and will “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.” Other experts say travel restrictions won’t keep variants out but might give countries more time to get people vaccinated.

 

London-based airline easyJet said Tuesday that renewed travel restrictions already appear to be hurting winter bookings, although CEO Johan Lundgren said the damage is not yet as severe as during previous waves. The CEO of SAS Scandinavian Airlines said winter demand was looking up, but now we “need to figure out what the new variants may mean.”

 

The pandemic already caused foreign tourism in Japan to shrink from 32 million visitors in 2019 to 4 million last year, a trend that has continued through this year.

 

As worries surfaced about omicron, Japan on Wednesday tightened its ban on foreign travelers, asking airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country until the end of December. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pushed for avoiding “the worst-case scenario” and reversed a relaxation of travel restrictions that had been in effect just three weeks.

 

In Europe, Alpine ski resorts worry about how to keep up with requirements such as ensuring all skiers are vaccinated or recovered from infection and have tested negative for the virus.

 

Travel executives argue that government decisions about restrictions should wait until more is known about omicron, but they admit it’s a difficult call.

 

Source: https://www.bna.bh/en/Omicronunravelstravelindustrysplansforacomeback.aspx?cms=q8FmFJgiscL2fwIzON1%2bDggpyUCEklwT44Jbj0MoSYg%3d

 

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