Rebuilding travel: 5 measures that will allow you to travel (almost) for free

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  • Local authorities are paying for extra accommodation and offer free entrance to museums and archeological sites (Sicily, Italy)
  • Beach resorts are offering free beach access and amenities (Bulgaria)
  • Italy, Japan, UK might pay their citizens to spend holidays inside the country
  • Airlines offer cheap miles and announce a fare war
  • New Zealand is endorsing 4-day week to encourage domestic travel

People will travel, as long as they are allowed to. But closer destinations, shorter durations and various restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic mean travel will be quite different this year. Surveys (conducted from May 10-14, via online forms filled by +1600 worldwide respondents) show that domestic travel will be in focus for this year. But there are regions where the income produced by the non-local tourism sector is very hard to replace. Because of that, some destinations are getting creative in attracting travelers by offering monetary and other incentives.

Here are some ways destinations are luring potential travelers.

Tourist regions might offset accommodation costs

Manlio Messina – Councilor for Tourism in Sicily announced an initiative to encourage travel to the popular Italian island. If international travelers book 2 nights they would get a third free. A 6-night booking would entitle them to 2 extra nights for free.

A similar measure was announced on the other side of the ocean, in Cancún, Mexico.

Another worldwide trend is expected in regards to short term rentals. As they were severely impacted by the worldwide lockdowns, many owners or property managers will need to recoup losses. This will likely lead to incredible offers, especially in the first months after lockdowns.

Countries might pay for flights

The Japan Tourism Agency announced for instance the Go to Travel Campaign that might start in July, which would subsidize a part of domestic travel expenses. The measure is being taken into consideration as a boost to domestic travel, which took a hard hit after postponing the Olympics until 2021 and expanding travel restrictions for about 70 nationalities. Government data showed a 99.9 percent year-on-year decrease for April, with only 2,900 foreigners estimated to have traveled in Japan.

Sicily also is considering paying half the airfares for tourists spending their holidays in Italian territories, as the sector is representing 13% of the country’s GDP and the government is trying to save as much as possible after the difficult lockdowns.

Greece plans to cut the Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) on modes of transport, which means flights, buses and trains will be cheaper.

As a way to rebuild trust, the Cyprus government intends to reimburse the travel costs to any tourist who tests positive for coronavirus after visiting the country, which should bring extra insurance to travelers and increase travel demand.

..or they will offer time for traveling

The New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged business owners and managers to think more about work flexibility by offering 4-day workweeks with 3-day weekends. This would be a great opportunity for people to travel more, be more productive and finally help rebuild the economy through domestic tourism.

Empty middle seats and cheap airline miles

As an extra safety measure, many airlines are keeping the middle seat empty, but it is certain that this extra space cannot last for long periods of time due to the extreme financial impact.

European theme parks are thinking the same way.

Low-cost carriers will fight to build trust among potential tourists as quickly as possible, which should bring below-cost sales and almost free rides.

Free entries and amenities

Bulgaria is known for its budget-friendly beach resorts, but travelers will be able to spend even less during the 2020 summer season, as many beaches will have free entry and other free amenities like umbrellas and sun loungers.

Sicily is also offering free entries to various museums and archeological sites, including the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and the Villa Romana del Casale.

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