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Coronavirus: Germany initiates emergency plan to fly back stranded tourists

The German government is undertaking an emergency program to bring back thousands of citizens stranded overseas due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It has struck a deal with airlines to fly tourists back on special flights, particularly from Morocco, the Domincan Republic, the Philippines, the Maldives, and Egypt.

Read more: Coronavirus crisis: What travelers now need to know

Details of the mission

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the procedure as a “Luftbrücke” invoking memories of the extraordinary Berlin airlift program that flew supplies into a cut-off West Berlin during the Cold War.

Specifically, he said:

The government had set aside €50 million for the program, which will focus on package holiday tourists. There was a particular urgency in Morocco, where between 4,000 and 5,000 Germans are stranded. General rules for returnees would apply, and did not suggest there would be a general quarantine. Tourists should remain patient as “we won’t be able to offer a 24 hour-solution in every case.”

Read more: Coronavirus: How are Germany‘s biggest airports coping?

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Travel warning extended

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said that the warning against traveling abroad will remain in effect until the end of April. “This includes the Easter holidays,” he said on Twitter. “Stay at home! Protect yourself and your fellow human beings,” he appealed to the population. Many tour operators have also extended their travel ban until the end of April.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism EU pays for return to Europe

The EU Commission is supporting the return to Europe of tens of thousands of long-distance travellers. It intends to cover a large part of the costs, since most of the flight connections have been cancelled. “We are here to help them return,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Africa‘s measures to deal with the pandemic

African countries have also ordered numerous measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. South Africa, for example, has banned access to the country for people coming from risk areas. Nigeria is monitoring the temperature of travelers at airports, ports and borders. Cameroon has closed its borders indefinitely.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Australia bans foreign travel

The Australian government has imposed an indefinite ban on all foreign travel by its citizens. Prime Minister Scott Morrison also called on all Australians who are abroad to return home. A 14-day compulsory quarantine for all people entering the country has already been in place for some time. Here, too, it has become quiet in the cities.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Tourism in Germany comes to a halt

The coronavirus crisis is impacting travelers and the tourism industry with full force. Several tour operators, including TUI, has cancelled trips, and some airlines are shutting down. Germany‘s federal and state governments decided that overnight stays should only be used for “necessary and explicitly not for touristic purposes”. Germans are to “no longer take holiday trips at home and abroad”.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism EU external borders closed

The EU has closed its entire external borders for 30 days as from Tuesday (March 17, 2020). “All travel between non-European countries and the European Union will be suspended for 30 days,” French President Macron said in a television address on Monday (March 16,2020) evening. The Schengen Area, which includes several non-EU countries, has also closed its external borders.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Germany brings travelers back home

More and more countries are sealing their borders, and many flights are cancelled. With special flights Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings want to bring up to 6,500 stranded holidaymakers from the Caribbean, the Canary Islands and on Mallorca back to Germany. In Morocco, the German government is assisting German tourists who are stranded there due to their return flights being cancelled.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Germany partially closes its borders to tourists

On Monday morning (March 16, 2020), Germany introduced entry controls at the borders with the five neighboring countries: France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland. Border crossings will be reduced to what is strictly necessary. Goods can continue to pass through, including commuters, but not travelers without good reason. The duration of the measures remains open.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism North German islands closed for tourists

Whether Spiekeroog, Sylt or Rügen: Vacation on the northern German islands in the North and Baltic Sea is no longer possible as of March 16, 2020. Those who had already moved into their accommodation have been asked to return home. The health systems of the islands are not equipped to deal with large numbers of infected people. Regulations are to follow for mainland tourism.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Disneyland Paris closes

Disneyland Paris and Disney World Florida have closed until the end of the month. Disney Cruise Line have also suspended all new departure through the same period. The company said the decision was made “with great caution” to protect guests and employees. The company said the parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, which had already been closed, will also remain shut.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Austrian ski regions end season early

All ski areas in the Austrian provinces of Salzburg and Tyrol are ending the winter season early. Cable car operation will be discontinued as of Sunday (March 15, 2020). Hotels and accommodations will be closed from Monday. The provincial governments said that this should slow down the spread of the virus in the Alpine country. The two provinces account for most leading Austrian ski areas.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism USA: Entry ban for Europeans

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the USA is imposing a general 30-day travel ban on people from Europe. The entry ban comes into force on Friday (March 13, 2020) at midnight (local time). It does not apply to US citizens residing in Europe who have tested negative for the pathogen.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism India imposes entry ban

India has declared all tourist visas invalid for 1 month because of the corona virus. Only travelers who are already in the country are allowed to stay, the Indian Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday (March 11, 2020). The entry ban is to last until April 15 for the time being.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism China closes access to Mount Everest

Climbing Mount Everest via the north side has been forbidden by Chinese authorities. The necessary permits for expeditions to the world’s highest mountain were withdrawn on Thursday (March 12, 2020).

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Italy increasingly sealed off

In order to reduce the spread, the border into neighboring Austria can only be crossed from Italy with a medical certificate. Slovenia has closed its border, and Albania has banned Italian air and ferry traffic. Many airlines have cancelled flights to Italy until at least 3 April. Germany, the UK, and Ireland tightened travel recommendations and called on their citizens to leave.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Mediterranean cruises put on hold

The Costa Crociere shipping company is cancelling all cruises in the Mediterranean for the time being. The cruises will be suspended until April 3, the Italian company announced on Tuesday (March 10). The measure affects thousands of passengers. Ships still operating in the Mediterranean will only call at Italian ports to let passengers disembark.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Reichstag dome closed for visitors

The dome and roof terrace of the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin have been closed to visitors since Tuesday (March 10, 2020) until further notice to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus. The walkable dome and the roof terrace are visited by more than 2 million people every year, according to the Bundestag.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Winter sports season in Italy ended early

All ski facilities in Italy have been closed since Tuesday (March 10, 2020) due to the corona crisis. Prior to this, hoteliers and cable car operators in the South Tyrol region (photo) had already agreed to close their facilities. South Tyrol is particularly popular with winter sports tourists from Germany and Eastern Europe. The closure is effective until at least April 3.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Travel warnings and border controls

The Czech Republic (picture) and Poland are carrying out checks at the border with Germany to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. Since Monday (March 9), travelers have faced random temperature checks. The German government has warned against travelling to risk areas. And air passengers from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Italy will have to expect controls when entering Germany.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Italy in crisis

On March 8 the Italian government issued an entry and exit ban for the more than 15 million inhabitants of the northern Italian regions, which include the key business center Milan and the tourist magnet of Venice (photo). Cultural, sporting and religious events are also banned for visitors. Museums, cinemas and theaters remain closed nationwide.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Cruises a risk factor

Repeatedly cruise ships have to be quarantined or prevented from docking. After cancellations in Thailand and Malaysia, the Costa Fortuna (photo) with 2,000 passengers, including 64 Italians, has been allowed to enter the port of Singapore. In Oakland, California, 2,000 passengers and 1,100 crew members of the Grand Princess are quarantined because 19 of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus: The consequences for tourism Asia fears dramatic setbacks

Sights in Asia are particularly affected by travel restrictions for Chinese tourists. Hotspots such as the Senso-ji temple (picture) in Tokyo and the temple complexes of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are reporting a sharp drop in visitors. On March 9, the Ministry of Tourism in Thailand reported a 44% drop for February. Tourism accounts for 11% of the gross domestic product.

Author: Andreas Kirchhoff, Susan Bonney-Cox


Morocco has canceled commercial flights to and from Germany, while ferries have also been stopped, meaning the only way to travel to mainland Spain is via the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.

Travel warning

Maas said there was now a formal warning in place, advising Germans not to leave the country.

“We must prevent other German travellers from getting stranded abroad. For this reason, we decided from now to warn against all tourist travel,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday urged all Germans to stop holidaying at home and abroad, as she announced sweeping curbs to keep them indoors to halt the contagion.

Germany normally only issues travel warnings for war zones and crisis areas. The advisory gives a strong legal backing for German tourists seeking a refund for canceled travel plans, likely increasing the chance that people will choose to cancel travel plans.

Travel warning: From now on we have decided to warn against all unnecessary tourist trips abroad. Hence the urgent request: Stay at home. You will help yourself and others! This travel warning for tourist travel applies worldwide,” Maas wrote on Twitter.

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