EUROPE HAS REOPENED
Members of the European Union are welcoming vaccinated
travelers. But there are still rules and restrictions to abide by.
Here’s how to navigate six countries and what you can expect.
Above: Tourists take in the walled city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Bars and restaurants can operate but customers must be seated outside. The only indoor dining allowed is in hotels. There is a 10 p.m. curfew for shops, restaurants and other businesses. While beaches, thermal spas, parks, zoos and most museums are open, nightclubs are closed.
The general mood seems relaxed, and people seem eager to return to quasi-normal life and welcome tourists. Croatia’s economy heavily relies on tourism, accounting for almost 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product according to 2018 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“Most people have a normal social life,” said Kresimira Kruslin, 30, a lawyer in Zagreb. “The general feeling is very optimistic. Young people feel comfortable going out for drinks and things like that,” she said. “Some people are more cautious than others, but I don’t know anyone who is scared.”
Above: In Paris, cafes like the tourist-favorite de Flore, have reopened for outdoor dining with limited-indoor available beginning June 9.
Nonessential stores are reopening, outdoor dining has started, and the national curfew has been pushed back from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Museums like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are also opening their doors, as are theaters, movie theaters and cultural sites across the country, including the Château de Versailles and the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. The next easing of nationwide restrictions will come on June 9, when France’s curfew will be rolled back to 11 p.m., and limited indoor dining will be permitted. The last of the major restrictions will be lifted on June 30, when the curfew will be abolished and larger gatherings will be allowed, opening the door for the summer festival season. But even after all of the lockdown measures have been eased, visitors to France should expect to encounter mask requirements and social distancing measures, including limited capacity at museums, restaurants, stores and other establishments.
It’s been a long spring in France, and for many here, the annual grandes vacances can’t come soon enough. Restaurants just opened for outdoor dining, and people flocked to the tables, despite chilly, rainy weather in much of the country. But the prospect of summer vacations may be as important to the national economy as it is to the French spirit. The tourism industry accounts for nearly 8 percent of France’s gross domestic product and supports some two million jobs. “We need, we want, in good health conditions, to remain the top tourist destination in Europe and the world,” Mr. Beaune, the French official, said. “This is an economic issue for us.”
Above: Monastiraki Square in Athens is a tourist hot spot.
Life in Greece is beginning to feel normal again as the government peels away the various restrictions of the country’s months-long lockdown. Outdoor archaeological sites reopened earlier this spring, while restaurants and cafes once again began offering outdoor service (with a maximum of six people per table) on May 3. Greece’s museums have been open to all — with masks required and social distancing measures in place — since May 14. Open-air cinemas kicked off their summer season on May 21, while spas, wellness centers and outdoor theaters are scheduled to reopen before the end of the month. A pared-down curfew remains in place, from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. Ferry services to the islands are up and running, with limited capacity and mask requirements.
Greece jumped ahead of many of its European neighbors in opening up to vaccinated or Covid-negative tourists from the United States and a handful of other countries. The tourism industry accounts for roughly a quarter of total employment and more than a fifth of Greece’s gross domestic product, so restarting the industry is critical to helping the country recover from 2020, when the economy shrank by 8.2 percent.
“Unfortunately, after more than 10 years of economic hardship, tourism and food is our only industry,” Kostas Tzilialis, who works at a cafe and bookshop in central Athens, said recently. “We don’t produce cars or machines. So we have to open our industry right now. Let’s hope that people will be careful and the vaccines will protect us.”
Above: Tourists savor outdoor dining at Piazzale Michelangelo with sweeping views over Florence, Italy.
Italy regulates restrictions with a system that places each of its 20 regions on a white-yellow-orange-red scale, which can at times result in significant differences across the country. Currently most of Italy is listed as “yellow,” with minor restrictions. Bars and restaurants are open for both indoor outdoor service. On June 7 the curfew was pushed back to midnight and, if the virus continues to abate, the curfew will be repealed by the end of June. Museums and theaters are open, but at a reduced capacity. Masks are mandatory for anyone above age 6, outdoors and indoors. Theme parks will open in June.
The mood is mixed with optimism, pandemic fatigue and excitement. On May 4 Prime Minister Mario Draghi gave a speech that energized the climate: “It’s time to book your vacations in Italy, we can’t wait to welcome you again,” he said, referring to international tourists.
Those working in the tourism industry say it worked. “Draghi’s announcement energized the bookings, we saw an increase just the day after,” said Giuseppe Artolli, 62, who manages COMO Castello del Nero, a castle-turned-hotel in Chianti.
Carlo Dalla Chiesa, 43, manages Milan’s youth hostel Ostello Bello, a popular destination for young international travelers but also a place where locals go for their aperitif. Even though the hostel lost 97 percent of revenue during the pandemic, he said the owners feel very optimistic and now are expanding their business in Rome, Florence, Genoa and Palermo. He is convinced that youth tourism is going to boom more than “adult” tourism.
Above: Restaurants along Istanbul’s Galata Bridge are currently offering takeout service only.
Turkey’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, and its response to the pandemic has been defined, in large part, by not cutting off its flow. The country has had a two-tiered system in place throughout the pandemic that exempts visitors from the strictest lockdown measures, including a curfew at night and on weekends that requires residents to stay at home. Tourists are free to visit museums, beaches and other sites across the country. Hotels and resorts are open with capacity restrictions, and Turkey is prioritizing vaccinations for tourism workers.
On June 1, restaurants and cafes reopened for indoor and outdoor dining between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and takeout is available until midnight. Retail stores and shopping malls are open during the week and on Saturdays, but theaters, gyms and swimming pools remain closed. All the restrictions are expected to be lifted at the start of the all-important tourist season in July.
Above: Londoners stroll over the Thames as normal life begins to return in Britain.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
Pubs, restaurants, theaters, museums, stores and hotels have reopened over the last three weeks, although capacity restrictions and social distancing measures still apply. While outside, most people do not wear masks, but indoors they are still expected to do so unless eating or drinking in a restaurant.
Across major cities such as London, Manchester, Brighton and Edinburgh, restaurants and bars are buzzing with people reuniting with friends and family and enjoying their newfound freedom after months of lockdown. Demand in coastal destinations like Cornwall and Dorset has soared in recent weeks as the weather warms and Britons book domestic beach vacations.
If coronavirus cases and deaths remain low in England and a new surge of the Indian variant is contained, the government aims to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions by June 21, including those on nightclubs and large events such as festivals. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following separate but similar timetables.