Will Tourism Resume in August?
According to Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, managing director of SAF, the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, markets in Central Europe and in the Nordic countries may open to tourism in the coming months.
“Our attention focuses mainly on tourists who have booked trips to Iceland in late August and this fall and haven’t canceled yet,” he tells Morgunblaðið.
His reason for optimism is that the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 is rapidly declining in many European countries. The pandemic has abated in the Baltic States, Slovenia and Slovakia.
In addition, the Nordic countries finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least in terms of the first wave of the pandemic, and the Faroe Islands have so to say gotten rid of COVID-19 for now.
Jóhannes states that his understanding, after talking to officials, is that the arrival of tourists this fall is being carefully considered.
“The focus is on the balance between the possibility to travel between countries and the risk involved,” he explains. “In addition, limitations regarding the number of people gathered are being looked at, and how to make sure people are not infected [with the novel coronavirus]. If we manage to make bilateral agreements with other countries, that too hinges on the flights being offered. We hope this assessment will be done as soon as possible, and we realize there are numerous factors that require consideration.”
The willingness of Europeans to travel this summer remains a question.
One factor being looked at is setting European rules regarding the reception of tourists under these circumstances. So-called “quarantine tourism” has been discussed, where groups of tourists have limited contact with other people while traveling. Some sorts of tests for the virus have been discussed as well.
“Most likely, there won’t be a special Icelandic solution, but a bilateral agreement with other countries,” Jóhannes states.
According to public data, COVID-19 began spreading in Europe in March, or two months ago. August is three months away, and along with September, it has been a popular time to visit Iceland in recent years. It appears, however, that the US and the UK will still be closed to tourism in August, due to the pandemic.