Countries are opening up to tourists again… but travellers have to adhere to guidelines to curb Covid-19 

SINGAPORE (July 3): The Maldives will reopen its tourist resorts from July after months of shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s president said on June 23. Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise popular with honeymooners and celebrities. “The country will reopen its borders for international travel, and the government will allow resorts to welcome visitors from July 15,” President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told reporters at a press conference held in the capital Malé.

Foreign visitors would not be required to undergo virus tests or carry virus-free certificates to enter the archipelago of 1,190 tiny coral islets, the government said. However, visitors showing virus symptoms or with high fevers would be tested for the infectious disease at the airport, officials said.

The lockdown would be eased further with schools and restaurants, as well as mosques, to be re-opened in the country of Sunni Muslims in the near future, Solih added, without mentioning any dates. Tourists were stranded in the Maldives when international flights were halted from late March to combat the spread of the virus.

Most of them left by mid April on government-organised or privately chartered flights. International flights have not yet resumed, although charters and special flights are permitted to arrive and leave the main airport in Male. The South Asian nation, which has a population of 340,000 people, has so far reported 2,217 Covid-19 cases including eight deaths.

The government said the Maldives attracted a record 1.7 million foreign tourists last year, a 15% from 2018. Visitor numbers are expected to halve this year. 

Disneyland Paris to reopen

Disneyland Paris said that it would begin a “phased reopening” of the theme park on July 15, with visitor numbers limited via a new online reservation system to ensure social distancing. Visitors aged 11 and older will have to wear face masks, and many shows and events will remain suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the resort said.

The first hotel at the site — which usually attracts some 15 million visitors per year— will also open on July 15, followed by staggered openings of others through the summer. The phased reopening will see “enhanced health and safety measures implemented for both cast members and guests,” the company said in a statement.

Same-day ticket sales will no longer be available, and people with non-dated tickets or annual passes will have to reserve spots. The park has also suspended the “FastPass” service where people can reserve time slots for certain rides “to allow for the necessary queue management”.

To encourage people to come despite uncertainty over the continuing pandemic, the resort is allowing people to cancel or modify their Disney Hotel reservations without cost up to seven days before arrival. Some 16,000 people work at the resort, which began halting shows and limiting the number of people inside even before France’s nationwide lockdown took effect in the middle of March after some maintenance workers tested positive for Covid-19.

“We are thrilled to see one of the main tourism destinations in Europe and the largest single-site employer in France reopen to guests and its employees,” Sophie Huberson of Snelac — which represents the theme parks, leisure and cultural areas in France — said in Disney’s statement. 

Strict rules for Machu Picchu reopening

The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu — a jewel of Peruvian tourism — will sharply reduce the number of daily visitors once it reopens from a virus-imposed closure in July, officials said. Given the need for social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, only 675 visitors will be allowed in each day — one-quarter the usual number — governor of the Cusco region Jean Paul Benavente told AFP.

Guides would lead tours of only seven visitors, and people would be required to wear masks. The July reopening is linked to a lifting of national confinement measures in place since March 16, the governor added. Airports in Peru remain and many shops in the country remain shuttered. But despite some of Latin America’s earliest and most stringent measures, Peru has logged the second-highest number of cases in the region at 225,000, along with some 6,500 deaths.

Despite this, the government announced plans in May to try to revive its important tourism industry by offering free entry to nature reserves and archaeological sites including Machu Picchu for children, public employees and the elderly.

Peruvian tourists will also be able to fly again sometime in July or August, but with no decision on the reopening of borders, it remains unclear when foreign tourists will be returning. Before the pandemic, Machu Picchu saw an average of 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day, with peaks of 5,000 visiting in high season.

However, the pandemic has caused a collapse of Peru’s tourism industry. In the city of Cusco, the ancient Incan capital 70 kilometers from Machu Picchu, tourism employs 100,000 people. Machu Picchu, a Unesco World Heritage Site. which opened to tourists in 1948, last closed to visitors in 2010 after a flood damaged the access railway. During the latest closure the government added security to prevent the theft of archaeological treasures at the site The pandemic has caused a collapse of Peru’s tourism industry — it suffered losses totaling US$3.3 billion ($4.59 billion) this year, said to Prime Minister Vicente Zeballos.