Italy May Be Off Limits For Travel Until April 2021

Europe is ahead of the U.S. in getting through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic by a few weeks. They’re looking towards re-opening their economies and society. And each country seems to be looking at timetables differently – the focus appears to be at the national level, rather than at the level of the E.U.

As the idea of Brexit was being hatched at a Pizzaria Uno at Chicago’s O’Hare airport there were efforts to erect border controls within Europe effectively bringing an end to the idea of a unified Europe, codified by the Schengen Agreement, which allows free passage within the confines of 26 countries that abolished border controls with each other, effectively becoming a single country for travel.

Whatever you thought of Brexit, and I was opposed, it seems almost a non-event in comparison to the developments in Britain and broader Europe (and the rest of the world) over the past two months. It may be possible to travel to (some parts of) Europe in the fall and still not be able to visit several countries while you’re there. Flights may be limited, quarantines imposed, or other restrictions could remain in place to keep out tourists who might bring with them the virus.

If each European goes there own way during crisis, what does that mean for Europe-wide responses to the virus? to recession/ to the continued idea of a unified Europe, if border controls are in place inside the European Union? Will there be pushback against closures that lead to frictions, especially once coronavirus cases do come in via travel, that spur another country to follow Britain’s lead in leaving? (The U.K. was not a part of the visa-free Schengen Area even as a part of the European Union.)

Plans to re-open the economy in phases are still speculative, and still just plans. They haven’t yet hit the reality of local politics (sustaining closures in the face of a struggling economy) or European politics (and pressure, perhaps coming from Germany and in exchange for economic aid, to follow a more unified approach). Thus pronouncements about re-opening Spain ‘at the end of the year’ and Italy ‘after March 2021’ are at this point merely suggestive of the challenges that international travel will face, rather than something to be taken at face value.

(HT: MilesTalk)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So Gary, whats you’re feeling about leisure travel? How soon do you think we will open here in the US and then Europe and beyond?

  2. Brace for SPAGEXIT
    Italy leaving the EU is a very likely scenario
    On the subject of this post both italy and spain are heavily dependent on tourism, I can not see a scenario where they keep the tourists out much longer, it will be apocalyptical for their exonomies

  3. This is completely absurd. As are your sources for this. C’mon, Gary, as a “thought leader” in the industry at least wait until there are really credible steps to this rather than hyperbole and speculation from, my favorite, Marca?

    While there could feasibly be some border controls through the summer, the idea that they will last until spring of 2021 is completely ridiculous. This is one time I call you out for drama for clicks sake.

    This from the antithesis of a virus denier.

  4. Stuart – the blurb that went put for this post by email, that accompanies the title on the front page of my blog, amd that is part of the RSS excerpt says,

    “Plans to re-open the economy in phases are still speculative, and still just plans. They haven’t yet hit the reality of local politics …Thus pronouncements about re-opening Spain ‘at the end of the year’ and Italy ‘after March 2021’ are at this point merely suggestive of the challenges that international travel will face, rather than something to be taken at face value”

    Hard to call that click bait I think even using the most generous definition (sensationaliat) rather than the traditional one where the content fails to match the headline (the opposite of the case here).

  5. I suspect this isn’t far off the mark. A few weeks ago I made a flight reservation for Paris for New Year’s Eve, ie, the earliest date I thought would be safe in the assumption that flights would be happening again. Now, I don’t believe it’s going to happen that early.
    Most countries seem to be conceding that a vaccine is the only way to control this effectively…and that’s at least 12-18 months off, if ever.
    It goes without saying, the economic impact on countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Thailand, Australia, ie those with economies highly dependent on tourism, will be devastating. The USA is somewhat more protected.

  6. Remdecivir is going to save much of global economy, but international travel is not going to open up until there is a vaccine and that could easily take us into 2022. Spain and Italy, both of which are heavily dependent on tourism for over 11.5% of their GDPs, will require substantial assistance from Germany and they will get it in return for committing to hold Europe together.

  7. I think anyone that rushes to jump on a plane for 8/10/12 hours to Europe without a known phase down of virus cases is nuts. Spain has already stated that they will not open for tourist the end of or beginning of next year but then most of this is conjecture and subject to change. I for one would like to travel to Europe or even Capetown myself but thats not happening anytime soon. I do applaud EK for stepping up with their preboard virus testing. I am wondering if they are planing on full main cabins or keeping open every other seat ?

    Maybe its time as Dinah Shore once said “See the USA in a Chevrolet ” !! Palm Springs here we come

  8. I guess my trip to Greece in August is a no-go? We were going to Corfu for a week. I even got a sweet deal on a United Polaris flight last fall. 2100 for round trip EWR to ATH. Now the prices are 4-5000. I doubt it matters as no one will be vacationing so soon.

  9. @ Gary — I just want to be able to get some refunds. Hopefully eventual government aid to LH group will come with the requirement that refunds be issued.

  10. You might not be able to fly directly into FCO or MAD but getting there via land borders will definitely be possible if one really wants to get there.

  11. You have a poor understanding of the EU and the Schengen Agreement. This is all within each member state’s rights. Trade within the EU is still continuing without any limit and you can easily travel across boards for your work, every day. Countries have right just like states have in the US. Keep in mind that you have to be quarantined for 2 weeks when u visit Hawaii. I doubt anyone is questioning the Union. You just can’t have 8 million tourists visit the small island of Mallorca this summer.

  12. @Gary. When and where did I call it click bait? I was speaking about the body of your work which in turn creates drama which in turn creates….clicks.

  13. @Gary Title: “Italy May Be off Limits until 2021”. Body: A link to obscure sources that do nothing other than speculate.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much click bait. And you are better than that.

  14. Italians won’t want their precious ICU beds to be full of tourists during the lethal second phase when the people come out of hiding and they all eventually catch it.

  15. There’s just too much fear and too many deaths right now for any country to have a rational discussion about border openings. But we are now starting to see significant declines in infections and deaths in both the USA and Europe, and the most accurate-so-far models (not necessarily the ones favored by the doom-loving media and political opponents of Donald Trump) show the declines picking up steam in the next few weeks. If this happens — and I’ve seen credible estimates of extremely low infection numbers by early June — borders will slowly start to reopen. I do think some tourism will be allowed between the USA and Europe this summer: possibly in July but more likely in August. That said, if you’re not already holding a reservation, I don’t see why you’d rush to book a ticket unless is was absurdly cheap and you could get a free change. Once the borders reopen, fares are still going to be very cheap for awhile, so why bother booking now?

  16. The EU has turned out to be a club of fair weather friends. It worked as a free trade bloc and everything they have stood up from there was a disaster. Be it the Euro, be it the so called “Dublin” refugee system, be it the half-baked Schengen system where nobody is incentivized to protect the outside border.

    The EU can get back to a free trade bloc. That is fine. The rest is pure ideology and frankly nonsense. Unless the Germans pay for it nobody will do anything in a European fashion this time…

  17. Yet another dive into the gutter by Gary

    Thought leader…. hahahahah!

    And for those that rise to his defence… If you’re taking advice about when the greatest pandemic to hit the human race in the last 100 years is to end, then, sadly, you’re also part of the problem.

    This virus will not magigorically disappear overnight, despite what tRump keeps telling you. There is no vaccine, and probably won’t be for some time. Spanish flu lasted for two years and we didn’t have the travel to spread it like we do now. So, when Gary, in his race to be the National Enquirer of travel, mentions Italy 2021, I think, even optimistically, you could even say “the world”

  18. As a Spaniard by birth, an Italian by heart, and an American by choice, I’m indeed wondering about the length of current travel restrictions, considering that these three countries are my home triad. There are, and always have been, dissensions within the EU countries, and never have they been more blatant than now. There has been a number of harsh words and acts amidst them, particularly from Germany and the Netherlands towards their southern members; nothing like hard times to know who’s a friend and who’s a foe. The EU didn’t react to this pandemic in an unified manner from the very beginning, for as the COVID-19 ravaged Italy most of Europe looked the other way…

    I’m really curious to see how the political field evolves once the pandemic is over…the new balance of power, etc.

  19. We have an end-of-year trip to Rome planned, so we’ll certainly be watching this develop 🙂


  20. I just booked a trip to Italy in January. 84000 AA miles RT in business from DFW was hard to resist. Figured I could cancel and rebook as we get closer, assuming the airline doesn’t do so preemptively.

  21. I have a December trip to Bavaria planned, so I will be watching this closely. I am especially interested to see if the Germans come up with a mask that the wearer can drink beer through. Where there is a will, there is a way.

  22. Quite frankly I think this is all stupid. Travel could resume if:

    1) three days prior to travel you have to do a rapid covid test- if you test negative this time you must isolate prior to travel.

    2) anyone entering a domestic or international airport is subject to a rapid covid test outside. If you are negative for covid you get to go inside and get on your plane, if you are positive sorry! (this would be your 2nd test)

    3) When you exit the plane you get another rapid test, ensuring you are not sick. (your third test).

    4) You have to do a rapid test for staying at a hotel or entering a major theme park.

    5) Cost of test is burden of the traveler

    While I am from the USA and agree we have many idiots here, some of us have been doing the right thing. No one has visited my house since early March. I’ve seen my friends (like two of my very close friends who are also like me and do not go out) 2x while outside and socially distant.

    I always wear a mask and wash my hands as soon I get home if I do happen to go out.

    Why should I not be allowed to travel? Really? Im willing to pay for 3 covid tests if I had to.

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