Roam close to home: Tourists play safe in pandemic

29, May 2020 | nepaltraveller.com

Concerned about a possible second wave of viral infections, many Germans have set their sights on vacation destinations closer to home.

AP

BERLIN

Many a journey to far-flung corners of Europe starts in a dusty industrial yard in east Berlin, where Felix Rascher carefully tends to his small fleet of Volkswagen camper vans, a favorite among free-spirited travelers the world over.

But this spring, the pandemic threw a wrench in the works of the travel industry, as countries closed their borders and residents hunkered down to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Germany, with its 83 million inhabitants and generous annual holiday rules, will be crucial to the recovery of Europe’s tourism industry - especially while oversees visitors from China and the United States remain locked out by travel bans.

Concerned about a possible second wave of viral infections, many Germans have set their sights on vacation destinations closer to home.

This week, officials along Germany’s chilly Baltic Coast rubbed their hands as the first gaggle of domestic tourists arrived for a taste of sea air. “Some landlords are telling me they’ve never seen such demand as now, because it’s difficult to book anything abroad,” said Rene Roloff, the mayor of Prerow. The 130-year-old seaside resort with its 1,500 inhabitants depends almost entirely on tourism and normally has 1.2 million overnight stays each year.

Roloff said the surrounding county’s low number of COVID-19 cases was a selling point, adding that all businesses have been primed to enforce distancing rules.

Many hotels in northern Germany are already booked up for the Pentecost holiday weekend. The mayor of Cuxhaven, a popular seaside resort two hours’ drive from Hamburg, is even pleading with day trippers to stay away and give space to locals and long-term guests.

Rascher said bookings for his VW camper vans are slowly beginning to pick up, too. His clients, ranging from students to retirees and families with young children, normally have a bit of adventure in mind when they pick up one of the red or white vans, some of which have more than 500,000 kilometers (300,000 miles) on the odometer.

But with the risk of a second coronavirus wave and sudden lockdowns looming, Rascher said travelers might want to limit their horizons. “When we get a request now, I always ask the guests to consider whether they’d be happy with a tour of Germany,” said Rascher. “I really see it as a chance to get to know the country better.”

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