WITHu At the beginning of 2020, there was a dispute in Germany about whether the holiday corridor should be shortened in summer. The tourism industry had to digest the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook. In addition, the phenomenon of “flight shame” took up a lot of space in the public debate. Flying less for climate protection? This was discussed heatedly at times. In retrospect, one could say: In January, the world of travel was still okay.
January: Corona initially seems far away
Most Germans were busy choosing their vacation destinations in the month of the year with the most bookings, as always. Although there have been reports of a “new lung disease in China”, few people suspected the effects.
Until suddenly everything happened very quickly. The Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus went around the world – and plunged global tourism into its deepest crisis.
February: Cruise ship quarantined in Japan
German tour operators like TUI are canceling trips to China, but almost nobody goes there in winter anyway. In the opinion of most, it still seems to be more of a regional problem.
The pictures of the “Diamond Princess” aroused more concern in mid-February. After numerous corona infections on board, the Japanese authorities have quarantined the cruise ship in Yokohama, and there are also Germans among the passengers. “Fear is too much now” – this is how an affected pensioner from Munich describes his feelings. A fitting formulation for the mood that also prevails in distant Germany.
A stuck ship somewhere in Asia, but that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with your own travel plans. The virus is far away – until it seems to hit northern Italy within a few days.
It is surreal scenes that take place behind the Brenner Pass in one of the most popular travel destinations for Germans: communities are closed to restricted areas, bars, restaurants and shops, and St. Mark’s Square in Venice has been swept empty.
The disturbing images create the impression that the virus can no longer be stopped. At the end of the month, the world’s largest tourism fair ITB in Berlin is canceled, a few days before it begins.
March: Off for travel around the world
It’s the month that changes the world: the pandemic is sweeping the globe. Most countries close their borders within around two weeks, air traffic is suspended, tour operators are canceling all trips, tourist overnight stays in Germany are prohibited and the holiday islands are closed to holidaymakers. The world is in a “shutdown” – and all travel plans are suddenly wasted.
From Mexico to Thailand, Germans squat in hotel rooms and try to get the last flights home. The federal government is starting the largest return campaign in history. The Federal Foreign Office has issued a worldwide travel warning until the end of April. “This is painful for many, but absolutely necessary,” stated Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD). His appeal: “Stay at home!”
April: Trouble with airlines and tour operators
Spring is the time of fading horizons. The Easter holiday: canceled. Mallorca, Crete and Antalya: a long way off. Not to mention other continents. The longest journey these days is usually to the supermarket around the corner.
At the same time, trouble starts for many vacationers: airlines and tour operators take their time by reimbursing canceled trips, annoying their customers. At times there is a debate about whether consumers have to accept vouchers instead of a refund. That does not prevail. But many wait forever for their money. The travel industry is already in the middle of an existential crisis.
At the end of April, the last stranded Germans were brought home, 157 passengers from Cape Town reached Frankfurt. The government has brought a total of 240,000 travelers home. A few days later, the worldwide travel warning is extended to mid-June. Hope for the summer. Because many would like to start again.
But this year everything could be different. For example, there is talk of a renaissance of hiking in local regions. Does travel Germany fall back to the 1950s, a time before mass tourism with charter flights to the Mediterranean?
May: Hope for vacation in summer
In the beautiful month of May, a tender plant of hope grows: The corona restrictions will be relaxed before Pentecost, the first holiday guests will be drawn to the North Sea again. But above all there is the question: What will become of the summer, what will become of “Malle”?
At the end of the month, the good news: The travel warning for tourists is to be lifted from June 15 for 31 European countries, provided the pandemic allows. Suddenly it looks like Corona could soon be behind us.
June & July: masks in the hotel, Mallorca without the beer king
With a little delay, Spain also opens its borders again. Some people immediately seize the chance and get on a plane to Palma de Mallorca or other sunny destinations around the Mediterranean. Holidaymakers are drawn to Greece and Croatia, France and Portugal. Even in troubled Italy, many people are vacationing again.
Not all of them travel by a long way, but more people than one might have suspected a few weeks ago. Many stay in their own country: between Hiddensee and Oberstdorf it can get crowded – the tourist rediscovery of their home country.
The summer with its high temperatures puts the virus in its place and allows a relatively large amount of travel freedom again. But it is a travel season under the conditions of a global pandemic, which only took a summer break: mask compulsory on the plane, hygiene rules in the hotels, Mallorca without the beer king.
Die-hard cruise fans still have to be patient. At the end of July, the first ships leave again, initially on trips without going ashore. TUI Cruises calls this “blue trips”.
Even the big dream of vacationing in the USA has to wait, the country still does not allow foreign tourists in. And the travel warning continues to apply to more than 160 countries around the world. Anyone who travels abroad in the summer months uses a time window of relative carelessness – which will soon close again.
August & September: travel warning – also for Spain
Most people should be aware that the pandemic is not simply over. Experts warn of the second wave in autumn. And for vacationers, too, the options are slowly becoming limited again.
Spain, of all places, is the most popular foreign destination: From mid-August, a travel warning will again apply to the whole country, with the exception of the Canary Islands, because the number of infections is rising sharply. This is not a travel ban, but it is a conscious deterrent.
At the end of August, the existing travel warning for countries outside Europe will be extended, a few days later the travel warning for the Canary Islands will follow in early September. The corona numbers are also skyrocketing again in other European countries.
Looking at the list of risk areas is now mandatory. The small and small of rapidly changing regulations spoil the holiday mood.
Vacationers are already looking to autumn with concern: Was summer travel just a short, beautiful exception to the gloomy reality of the pandemic? The certainty follows quickly.
October & November: will skiing be possible?
When autumn came, almost everyone realized: The second wave was rolling – and with it new restrictions followed. Large parts of Europe will become corona risk areas by the end of October, and very soon the question will be where you can still travel.
Confusion breaks out within Germany at the beginning of the month as well. If you arrive from a corona risk area, you need proof of a negative corona test in many places, which in turn costs money.
Some of the federal states have inconsistent rules. It is also unclear whether vacationers will get the money back for their canceled booking without a test. Chaos just in time for the fall break.
It is little consolation that the federal government is lifting the travel warning for the Canary Islands at the end of October. And the fact that the warning has been dropped for some countries outside of Europe encourages only a few to pack their bags now.
Finally, the partial lockdown will follow in November. Hotels have to close again. The ski season is up for grabs. Aviation shame isn’t what keeps people from traveling, it’s the pandemic. It continues. Hardly anyone thinks about vacation. And the winter will be very long.
Some travelers may remember the summer, the holiday home in Denmark and Allgäu mountain peaks, latte macchiato on Lake Maggiore and tapas in Spain. And the innocent times when people argued about the vacation corridor.