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TRAVEL: How soon can Italy hope to restart tourism this summer?

Italy remains in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions on international and domestic travel in place. But as many people look at booking summer trips, when could Italy's holiday hotspots reopen this year?

TRAVEL: How soon can Italy hope to restart tourism this summer?
What will beach holidays in Italy look like this year? Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP

At the moment, most travel to Italy is restricted from non EU-countries, including the US.

And while entry into Italy from European countries is allowed, there are strict testing requirements in place.

EXPLAINED: Who can travel to Italy right now?

Even once you’re in Italy, restrictions make most tourism impossible. Right now the country is under domestic travel restrictions as well as a 10pm curfew. Bars, restaurants and non-essential shops are closed in many parts of the country, as are museums and other attractions.

But this does not seem to have stopped hopeful would-be visitors from planning holidays in Italy this summer, as bookings are reportedly flooding in.

“Reservations continue to arrive. To date we have 65 percent of what we recorded in 2019,”  Nicola Palomba, head of Confidustria’s tourism group and a representative of a five-star hotel in Pula, Sardinia, told the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper on Tuesday. 

“Let’s just say that there is a significant recovery.”

While 60 percent of those bookings were from Italians, he said, the rest mainly came from Switzerland, Germany and England.

Flight reservations to Italy from the UK shot up in February after the British government announced it may remove restrictions on international travel in May.

READ ALSO: Here’s what you should know before booking a trip from the UK to Italy

However, there has been no word from Italian authorities on when it will lift its own travel restrictions to allow summer tourism.

The Italian government announced the country’s latest emergency decree on Wednesday, which confirmed that current travel restrictions – international and domestic – are to stay in place until at least after Easter. The rules are in place indefinitely, with the next review due on April 6th.

If Italy does remove travel restrictions for summer, any changes are unlikely to be confirmed for weeks or even months yet.

Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

It’s also unknown whether travel would be allowed to the same extent as last summer, when Italy relaxed almost all restrictions – and a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the country was later linked to international travel.

Right now, concern is growing about a number of new coronavirus variants recently detected in Italy, and the health minister has said restrictions can’t be lifted until the potential risks of these new strains are better understood.

Meanwhile, Italy’s vaccination programme is making slow progress, with only 2.3 percent of the population vaccinated so far. 

Even under new plans to speed vaccinations up in the coming months, Italy is unlikely to have the majority of the adult population vaccinated until September at the earliest. 

Italy’s tourism minister has indicated that the country is keen to open up to summer travel as soon as infection rates and vaccination campaigns allow for it.

But there’s still no certainty yet for those hoping to travel, or for the many in Italy who make a living from the tourist trade.

“At the moment few, very few forecasts can be made,” said Costanzo Iaccarino, president of Federalberghi Campania, which represents hotels in and around the Naples area.

“In 2020 the season started at the end of June and lasted two months. We found ourselves going back to work at the last moment. This year, we should start again from May,” he said.

“However, we should ask ourselves how and where,” he said. “We will certainly need to be more careful and prudent than last year.”

On the island of Sardinia, hoteliers are also talking about possible restart dates in May.

“We are looking at reopening on May 14th,” Alessandro Covertino, director of the Hotel Abi d’Oru in Sardinia, told Il Sole 24 Ore. “For reservations, the signs are very encouraging despite the fact that the situation is still uncertain.”

But making plans to travel to Italy’s holiday hotspots is still far from straightforward.

“We still do not yet know how many and which flights will connect Sardinia with the peninsula and other international centers,” Palomba said. 

Business owners also said authorities needed to do more to reassure tourists and give clarity about what would happen if they were to get sick during their trip.

What measures are being considered?

Hotels and tour operators are discussing implementing everything from flexible cancellation policies to on-site testing for guests, while local authorities in many regions say negative test results will be required for travellers.

Some hotels told Il Sole 24 Ore they were allowing guests to book and pay nothing until arrival, while others were looking at offering insurance policies covering all expenses in case of cancellations.

The Italian government on Wednesday also announced that it was looking into increasing the number of ‘Covid-tested’ flights to the country, after a limited number began operating between Italy and the US from December.

Passengers on these flights, operated by Delta in partnership with Alitalia, need to show a negative virus test result from within the 48 hours before boarding, and are required to take another test upon arrival.

The European Commission meanwhile is expected to propose a ‘green pass’ – a form of health passport which may allow people to travel within Europe if they have been vaccinated, or have tested negative.

But, while some European countries including Spain are pushing for some form of vaccine passport scheme to help tourism restart, this is not something the Italian government is currently considering – even though some regional authorities are in favour of the idea.

READ ALSO: Reader views – should Italy introduce a Covid-19 vaccine passport?

Sardinia’s regional government is among the local authorities in Italy which have voiced support for the idea of vaccine passports for visitors.

In any case, Sardinia’s governor Christian Solinas says there will be health monitoring in place in the region.

“Those who enter Sardinia will have to show a certificate demonstrating that they have tested negative (for the coronavirus) or that they have been vaccinated,” he told daily newspaper L’Unione Sarda.

“The system of checks will be in place long before the start of the summer season”.

Several other Italian regions are also reportedly considering bringing in similar checks. However, at this point nothing is yet confirmed.

What are Italy’s current travel restrictions?

Even trips within Italy remain restricted for now, with travel between regions only allowed for essential reasons such as for work or to return to your place of residence.

At the moment, negative coronavirus test results are required to enter Italy from any country. There are many additional restrictions – including mandatory 14-day quarantine or even a complete ban on non-essential travel – depending on where you’re travelling from.

You can find out what the current restrictions are on travel from your country by completing this form on the Italian government’s website.

For more information on international travel to and from Italy, see the Foreign Ministry’s website 

Member comments

  1. We planned a trip back to Italy for June. I have not canceled it because we hope that since we will be vaccinated, we will be allowed to travel to Italy from the USA. If we are not allowed to, we will go to the UK or somewhere that will allow entry to those of us vaccinated.

  2. Frank Gavin

    If one books a Covid free flight from the US, will Italy allow entry on a 90 day visa?

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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