Long-distance travel under COVID restrictions | To travel

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With the end of the main travel season in Europe, those who feel drawn to the sun must travel further. But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is complicating the situation for both tourists and providers.

“It was great! I finally got to see people again and tell them about the country!” explains tour guide Daniela Piras about her recent tour of Jordan. Starting from the capital Amman, she visited the legendary rock city of Petra, among others, with 24 travelers. It was the first long-distance trip for the 46-year-old since 2019.

The ups and downs of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an almost complete collapse in the long-haul travel market. According to the German Travel Association (DRV), the shortfall last season was 94% compared to the pre-COVID year of 2019, and the drop in sales for tour operators’ travel was 69%. For the industry, that meant a loss of 12 billion euros ($ 13 billion).

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And although there has been a slight recovery this summer, at least for short trips in Europe, the travel market in general and long-haul travel in particular will have to contend with the effects of the pandemic for a long time to come. the president of the DRV. Norbert Fiebig: “An income level close to that before the pandemic will probably not be reached until 2023 at the earliest.”

Still, there is good news for long-distance travelers: Prices in this segment have only increased moderately despite the coronavirus-related outages. “You can’t handle a crisis like this by raising prices, it takes a lot more,” says Frano Ilić of travel supplier Studiosus. Thanks to his reservations, he was able to reimburse all customers for canceled trips. In addition, they kept their own costs as low as possible, put their employees on short-time work and produced fewer travel brochures. Financial assistance from the German government also helped to overcome the effects of the crisis.

DRV President Fiebig agrees with this assessment: “The economic situation of tour operators and travel agencies has also improved thanks to government aid, allowing many to survive the crisis.

Travel by 2G rules

In the meantime, more and more tour operators are once again offering long-distance travel. Most operate on the basis of the 2G rule, which means “geimpft oder genesen” in German, meaning people who have been “vaccinated or cured” from the coronavirus. In other words, unvaccinated travelers cannot participate. At Studiosus, the decision to go 2G was based on the experience of group travel under the 3G rule, which allows people tested unvaccinated. It had been difficult to coordinate the trips under 3G explains the spokesperson Frano Ilić: more possible to travel smoothly if daily tests were required. And the vaccinated and cured were increasingly unhappy as the onward journey was delayed by unvaccinated people needing to be tested. “

The reactions to the 2G arrangement have been positive: “We are seeing a high level of acceptance and a lot of approval among travelers, and only a few have canceled their trips as a result,” Ilić says.

Tour guide Daniela Piras has also experienced a rave response to coronavirus regulations from her clients. “The travelers were very relaxed. All of them complied in advance with the strict requirements of the Jordanian government, had their vaccination card, entry permit and PCR test with them – and then enjoyed their stay in the country, ”she reports. Regulations on the ground were similar to those in Germany, including maintaining distance, observing hygiene rules and wearing a face mask. And of course, as a tour guide, she ensured that the bus was regularly run for longer than usual and that meals were consumed outside as often as possible. She was not afraid of COVID: “The risk of foot injury when walking on rough paths in the rocky town of Petra or in a gorge is greater”, explains the experienced guide and adds with a smile: “In addition , we had five doctors in the group, so that wouldn’t have been a problem either.

The challenge of sustainability

The coronavirus crisis has hit all operators in the tourism industry hard. After the record year 2019, in which many destinations suffered from “overtourism”, in other words, were visited beyond capacity, the numbers have fallen to record levels. From now on, it is a question of recovering from the dead time, on the one hand, and not to repeat the mistakes of the past, on the other hand.

Aage Dünhaupt, TUI press officer for the airline, hotel and cruise sectors, sums it up: “It is important to strengthen the sustainability aspect in all travel, and therefore also in long-distance travel. couriers. We have been working for some time to reduce the environmental impact of our airline, cruise and hotel activities. “To this end, he said, the company is cooperating with the” Science Based Targets “initiative to develop appropriate plans for climate neutrality and involving external experts. “In recent years, we have already been able to achieve positive effects in holiday regions through large-scale measures and have also launched projects through our TUI Care foundation, where guests can discover and get involved on how vacations can be more sustainable. “

Studiosus spokesperson Ilić stressed his company remains committed to sustainability, as it has been since before the coronavirus crisis. “From 2021, not only the bus and train routes, but also all flights will be climate-friendly – it was important for us to stay the course in this area.”

The tourism governing body is in favor of such initiatives. DRV Chairman Fiebig said: “We are part of the problem, but we will also be part of the solution. Others, like Daniela Piras, have a different point of view: “Tourism is always something that helps: we help restore the economy and prevent more people from falling into poverty.

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