Safe tourist destinations and difficult choices

The tourism industry is currently facing a very difficult dilemma: on one hand, the industry professionals need to save the season. Summer is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere, traveling is all but stopped due to the coronavirus, and no one can really blame the people for being hesitant to travel. Lockdowns and quarantines are everywhere. On the other hand, there are many popular destinations that seem safe. Many exotic destinations, like the Bahamas, the Maldives, or the Greek islands, have hardly been affected by the virus. They can accept tourists and guarantee their safety. But can the tourists guarantee the local population’s safety?

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among industry professionals on whether they want tourists to come this year in full force. Everyone wants their country or island or resort to reopen, but it’s the how and the when that seems to be more controversial. Do they open everything for everyone, thus risking a new outbreak and, perhaps, a more strict lockdown? Do they let in only a portion of the tourists that would normally come, thus accepting the fact that this year is only about survival? Do they stay closed throughout?

This is a delicate balance that needs to be addressed both on an international and a state level and only then can it be addressed on a local level. The World Health Organization recommends mass testing as the surest way towards the end of the pandemic (until an efficient drug and a vaccine are widely available) and this needs to be done in the tourism industry as well. Talks about travelers being tested in their country of origin seem reasonable and it’s a goal that can be achieved if there is adequate communication between countries. But local authorities need to act as well. Wide testing should be available at the destinations as well, so any potential outbreaks can be stopped before they even start.

And then, there is personal responsibility, or business responsibility, if you will. Hoteliers and restaurant owners need to make sure that their guests and customers are obeying the rules of social distancing. There needs to be a plan in every establishment about how to react in case an employee or a guest gets sick, something that is recommended by the European Commission as well.

Opening everything up is a risk, there’s no denying that. But massive unemployment, the livelihood of millions of people is also at stake. And there are ways to keep everyone safe. We need to care and we need to be careful and we need to follow the guidelines of science.
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