Travel agencies launching packages to countries with low infection rates ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Travel brochures. Photo is illustrative.
Travel brochures. Photo is illustrative. Source: ERR

After suffering major losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel agencies are awaiting the restoration of air travel. Travel agents are starting to offer travel packages to countries with low infection rates, however, and domestic tourism has seen an increase.

Since mid-March, travel agencies have been busy issuing refunds as well as arranging for Estonians' return from abroad.

"Turnover has dropped catastrophically," Mauri Saarend, director of airline, GDS and insurance sales at Estravel, told ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera." "We're processing a lot more returns than are seeing new sales. Some offices will close; people are being laid off."

The same goes for other travel agencies as well.

While countries are reopening their borders, this has not meant an automatic increase in travel.

"Actually, perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of air connections," Saarend said. "In theory you could even travel to Turkey right now, for example, but all airports in Turkey re closed; you just can't get there."

"Hearing airlines' forecasts and plans, it can be said that the hope is to restore approximately 30 percent of flights from prior to the beginning of the corona epidemic in the third quarter, and operate approximately 70 percent of those flights in the fourth quarter," said Reisiekspert board member Sven Lõokene.

Various countries have different requirements when it comes to travel.

"Before making any travel-related decisions, people should absolutely first look into whether quarantines aren't being implemented in [their destination] country, or there aren't any other special conditions, such as a coronavirus test taken four days prior to travel and an English-language confirmation by a doctor of a negative result."

Airlines are also implementing various requirements, including taking passengers' temperatures, requiring the wearing of masks, or leaving middle seats empty. According to Lõokene, that also means that tickets will be more expensive.

Tourism companies are hoping that travel in Europe will become more convenient beginning next month.

Tour operator Tez Tour, which canceled all trips through the end of June due to the pandemic, is now keeping an eye on infection rates abroad as they begin organizing travel packages again.

"If we look at the statistics right now, it is Greece and Bulgaria where the infection rate has been comparable to Estonia's, meaning that these would suit our tourists," said Tez Tour marketing and sales executive Svetlana Vertjanova.

Both Reisiekspert and Estravel confirmed to "Aktuaalne kaamera" that domestic tourism saw a boost following the reopening of spas. Preferred destinations right now include Estonia, the rest of the Baltics, and countries further away, respectively.

Reinsalu: Quarantining dependent on traveler's conscientiousness

Remaining in quarantine upon arrival in Estonia will depend on an incoming traveler's own conscientiousness, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told "Aktuaalne kaamera."

According to information listed on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs homepage, anyone traveling to Estonia from a country with a relatively high number of coronavirus infections must remain in quarantine upon arrival. Travel agencies, however, are having a hard time understanding how to make this clear to people arriving in Estonia via countries with low infection rates.

"If they have been in this country during the last 14 days, they must actually self-quarantine," Reinsalu said. "If this manifests and someone hasn't fulfilled their requirement to quarantine, then this no doubt sanctionable; this is punishable."

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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