When will it be possible to travel to Italy again?

As of now, the road ahead is still long in Italy.

With one-third of world's population under lockdown and countries trying to get out of this health emergency as efficiently as possible, taking a cruise in the Mediterranean or flying to a new country to discover a new culture won’t be allowed any time soon.

A disappointing truth as we approach the long-awaited summer vacations. 

In Italy, one of the most asked questions for ‘phase two’ of the covid-19 emergency has been ‘will we able to travel’ after May 4th.

Although the new regulations are still being discussed, it is highly likely that free circulation will not be a possibility right away, and citizens will need a valid motive to travel out of their region. So what will the next months bring for Italy and the rest of the world?

Italian beaches

As discussions continue, some good news came out about Italian beaches. The government gave the green light to beach club owners to start their maintenance, giving hope to the citizens who would like to spend some time at the seaside this summer.

However, it is going to be a completely new experience for the beach lovers. There will be a minimum of 2m between sunbeds, and people will have to respect each other’s personal space all day. For sure, we won’t have young crowds playing volleyball or a group of toddlers building sandcastles.

A more extreme idea was also introduced earlier this month, suggesting building transparent cabins out of plexiglass to assure social distancing. Hypotheses continue with possible ticket dispensers for a take-a-number system for swimming and self-certifications to fill out about current health status.

But will people still go to a beach club if they need to wait their turn as in a bank and present documentation for what is supposed to be a relaxing experience? 

What happens in Europe

Ursula Von Der Leyen. Ph: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

As the curve is flattening out in many countries, EU member states are starting to lift restrictions one by one. So, when will Italy start welcoming tourists again to resuscitate its tourism?

With many hotels and restaurants preparing to reopen, business owners hope to get back the tourist crowds as soon as possible to make up for the loss of the last months.

However, even if Italians will be able to spend a day or two at the beach this summer, it doesn’t look good for international travellers.  

Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, warned against booking summer vacations, urging people to hold off their travel plans in Europe as ‘no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August.’

The ‘phase two’ of European countries include obligatory face masks, social distancing, and a gradual reopening of shops. Not the perfect scenario for a dream vacation in Italy.  

A similar warning came from the French Prime Minister Emanuel Macron, suggesting that the borders of the Schengen Area (together with the four Schengen Associated States - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) may remain shut until September.

For now, all nonessential travel to the EU is blocked until May 15th. However, further extensions are highly expected.

Each country will make its own decision regarding domestic travel while the EU regulations on allowing free movement of people between borders will depend on the growth rate of COVID-19 all around the world.

It is likely that the border restrictions will first be lifted inside the EU, and access to other countries will be granted only on a later date. 

The Airline Industry

Airline companies, especially those that offer low-cost charter flights, hope to operate during summer, their peak season, by taking appropriate social distancing measures such as barring the use of middle seats and monitoring the body temperature of the passengers before allowing them to fly.

More prominent companies such as Emirates introduced rapid blood tests for Covid-19, conducting on-site antibody tests to passengers before boarding the plane. Nevertheless, to go back to ‘normal’ we will have to wait for a vaccine.

EU commissioner Thierry Breton said “Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” underlining the hardship the member states are going through, estimating that the tourism economy ‘could slump up to 70 percent’.

A nightmare scenario for a country like Italy where tourism represents around 13% of the country’s GDP. 

What can we expect?

As of now, in Italy the road ahead is still long. There will be many steps such as giving the green light to domestic travel and short train rides before it’s time to start considering welcoming back tourists.

The predictions are numerous. Some news channels suggest the borders will reopen completely by November while other calendars shared on social media indicate that international flights will resume only in March 2021.

At the moment, these are simple predictions, and as of today, there is no new statement by the government regarding a long time ban on international travel.

However, as Italy is still trying to adjust to a new lifestyle where the citizens will learn to co-exist with covid-19, it is presumable that we won’t see many tourists for the rest of 2020 and the concept of travel will have a completely new look for the next year.