When travel resumes, tourists heading to certain countries could find their holiday cheaper than expected
The global pandemic has led to the suffering of many popular holiday destinations, with borders closed and flights grounded.
Many countries have now begun to reopen; some locations are hoping to lure visitors back with discounts, and in some cases, even offers of a partially paid-for holiday.
The latest to join this trend is the Italian village of San Giovanni in Molise, which has just launched a project called 'Regalati a Molise' (Give yourself to Molise). The initiative is offering 40 stays of one week each to visitors this summer, completely for free. Lucky travelers would stay in houses in the village.
The village's tourist board say it is promising a "holiday at zero cost with a very specific purpose: reviving the unknown corners of Molise by helping Italian and foreign visitors to discover them."
"No financial contribution is expected," it added. "The local community is offering three houses, and guests will not have to worry about anything, except discovering the beauty of Molise and its history, food and wine."
Those wanting to score one of the free holidays will also have to give their reasons for wanting to discover Molise, though that should not be too hard. Surrounded by nature, the ancient village is located 40 minutes from the sea and the mountains, two hours from the cities of Rome and Naples, and is deeply picturesque.
According to local reports, other small Italian villages have already asked to join this initiative, which is gaining momentum across the region. If successful it could be a template for other regions and countries to follow.
Though not going so far as to offer holidays that are entirely complimentary, the city of Cancún in Mexico has also launched a similar scheme to give tourists money off their travels. Over 200 private businesses in the holiday hotspot known for its beautiful beaches have set up a private initiative to offer travellers money off.
The theme of the initiative is the number two. For instance, hotels will offer two nights free for every two nights booked, or a free stay for two children when two adults book. Tourists would get two days free car hire for every two days they book.
“We are very happy and above all, committed because of the great participation in this campaign of the different state hotel associations as well as the tourist industry generally,” said Roberto Cintron, President of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres Hotels Association, of the move.
“It’s designed to reactivate holidays to our destinations after the crisis caused by Covid-19.” Tourism reopened in Mexico from June 8 and the initiative started a week later on June 15.
Sicily, Japan and Bulgaria have also brought out similar plans. Sicily was the first to do so in early May, and the regional government is planning a €50 million campaign to attract tourists back to the island in the autumn.
The plan will include subsidising travellers who book flight and accommodation packages, by paying half their air fare.
One free night of accommodation in three will also be offered as well as free entry to Sicily’s numerous world-class museums and archeological sights, including the Temples of Agrigento and the Villa Romana del Casale. (For details, keep an eye on the regional website visitsicily.com).
There have also been reports that Italians will be offered €500 to go on holiday within the country, to boost Italy’s domestic tourism, though these are as yet unconfirmed.
Japan then followed suit, as it lifted its state of emergency and began to ease lockdown restrictions in late May.
In a May 20 news conference, Hiroshi Tabata of the Japan Tourism Agency announced the country was looking to boost tourism by subsidising a portion of travellers’ expenses.
$12.5 billion (£10.2 billion) will be allocated to the new reimbursement programme for tourism and the programme could launch as early as July, if the country’s infection rate continues on its current downward trajectory. On May 25, Japan reported just 31 new cases of Covid-19.
Unfortunately it then emerged later that this scheme would only be aimed at domestic tourism – though a plan for international tourism may follow at a later date once longer-haul flights resume.
This is made more likely by Japan’s position as one of the world’s worst-affected tourism industries, due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, originally scheduled for July but moved to 2021.
The country saw a 99.9 per cent year-on-year drop in visitors during April, ahead of a summer when it was expecting a significant spike in visits.
Bulgaria, a location that has grown in popularity as a budget beach destination in recent years, has also announced its own plans to entice tourists post-lockdown.
Many of the country’s beaches will become free for tourists to enter, as well as amenities such as sun loungers and umbrellas. While this isn’t quite as good as a subsidised holiday, the offer will help make an already good value destination even more affordable.
Britain could also follow in Japan’s footsteps, and give money to residents to travel domestically within the UK. Visit Britain boss Patricia Yates said the tourism board ws looking at financial incentives within the UK.
"For every country, kickstarting the domestic market is really important and Italy has gone with that idea," she said. "It is an interesting suggestion for us if we look at what others are doing."
"So we could be looking at marketing campaigns or yes, you could give money straight to people and incentivise them to holiday at home.”
The FCO is still advising against all but essential travel and a mandatory 14-day quarantine has been in effect for those arriving into the country since June 8, but those booking holidays for later in the year may still be able to take advantage of the discounts.