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Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to know

RDO / Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to know

Background

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the tourism industry, which is such a dominant force in many parts of Europe, has been severe, resulting in the temporary closure of timeshare resorts and other touristic accommodation not only in Europe but around the world.

Resorts and hotels are governed by mandates from local governments and all have closely followed health department guidelines since the spread of the pandemic – the safety of their staff and guests is paramount.

Re-opening timetables

As deaths and infection rates are generally on a downward trend, countries around Europe are starting to ease the restrictions imposed earlier in the year. Beaches have re-opened in countries such as Greece, France and Italy and hotels and resorts in some countries are now able to accept guests, although overseas visitors will not be able return to tourist hot-spots until it is safe for them to travel.

Governments are moving tentatively to ensure that there is not a second wave of infections and warn that restrictions will be re-introduced if infection levels rise again. Strict physical distancing is still required and the wearing of face masks is generally compulsory, and is set to remain so for some time to come, in shared spaces such as public transport and shops.

A number of countries that have their Covid-19 outbreaks under control are shortly to re-open their borders to neighbouring countries with similar risk profiles to create tourist ‘corridors’ between EU member states, enabling people to travel from one country to the next.

Please note that the updates below are liable to change at short notice:

Austria

Gatherings of up to 10 have been permitted since the start of May and restaurants were allowed to re-open on 15 May.

Hotels & swimming pools will re-open at the end of May and the border with Germany is to to re-open on 15 June, paving the way for the return of an important tourist market to Austria. Depending on the level of infection control, other borders may open up again eg the Czech Republic.

Currently, visitors to Austria must self quarantine for 14 days.

Belgium

Tourism is part of phase 3 of the relaxation of rules and the re-opening of bars, restaurants and coffee shops is expected on June 8.

Belgians are expected to be able to take day trips from June 8 and take holidays in second homes or lodges in Belgium. Cultural, sporting, touristic or recreational events are prohibited until at least until June 30.

Denmark

Shops, cafes and restaurants re-opened on 11 May and groups of up to 10 people are permitted. Tourists are not yet able to visit Denmark.

From May 25, people with permanent residence in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Germany will be allowed to re-enter Denmark if they own a holiday home in Denmark or are travelling there on business.

Denmark is also looking at creating a “travel bubble” with Greece, to open up both countries to tourists for the summer holidays.

Cyprus

Cyprus hopes to re-open its tourist industry from July and hopes in particular to be able to welcome holiday makers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Nordic countries, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands and the UK back to the country.

Finland

Restaurants, museums, theatres, leisure centres, swimming pools and other sports facilities are to open gradually from 1 June and restrictions on numbers will apply.

Large public events of more than 500 people are prohibited until July.

Working from home is still recommended and will be re-assessed after the summer.

There will be a gradual re-opening of border traffic which is to be co-ordinated at EU level.

France

France has been divided into red and green zones showing how areas of the country have been affected by the virus and how lockdown measures have been eased.

In green zones, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and museums are to re-open from June 2. For Red zones, the reopening dates are to be communicated late May.

The current 100km limit on travelling from home is expected to be lifted and the French will be able to take their summer holidays – in France and French Oversea Territories –  in July and August.

Beaches have begun to reopen, although under tight restrictions and sunbathing is to permitted. Several French landmarks have now reopened, such as Mont Saint-Michel, the cathedral of Chartres and the Sanctuary of Lourdes (only for locals due to the travel ban).

French borders are expected to remain closed until June 15 and travellers from the UK and Spain will be invited to self quarantine for 14 days. EasyJet is to resume some domestic flights in France from 15 June.

The French Government has released €18 billion to support the tourism industry.

Germany

Germany has started to relax its rules and shops and primary schools can now open although large events are still banned. Hotels, restaurants and bars are to open soon, although visitors must currently quarantine for a 14 day period on arrival.

Germany is looking to reopen borders with neighbours France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark and Austria by mid-June, depending on infection rate, at which point the tourist industry can start to recover.

Greece

A gradual easing of lockdown rules from 4 May came into effect and most shops are now open, although large gatherings are unlikely to be allowed for some months to come.

Organised beaches re-opened 16th May, with strict protocols in place and from 25th May, restaurants and bars reopened, again following specific COVID-19 protocols. Ferries to the Greek islands also restarted, at 50% capacity.

The Greek government has announced that the tourist seasons is to restart on 15 June:
  • Seasonal hotels will be able to open from that date
  • Flights will initially only land in Athens International Airport (from June 15th onwards) but will eventually extend to all airports as of July 1st
  • Tourists will be allowed to enter Greece without tests or quarantine as of July 1st, but health officials will be conducting spot tests, as necessary
  • Tourists will initially be allowed from countries with a positive epidemiological outlook. Such countries include Cyprus, Israel, China, Japan, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. This list will be constantly updated, according to most recent data
  • The health infrastructure of tourism destinations will be boosted by the state, by providing tests and doctors, as well as with the formulation of an operational plan for the handling of possible infections.

Guidelines will be produced by the Government for restaurants, hotels, swimming pools and beaches.

Ireland

Commencing 18th May, there are five stages to the process and hotels will only be able to re-open, on a limited occupancy basis, during phase four, which commences 20th July. Bars etc will have to remain closed and all visitors, including those from Britain, have to self isolate for a 14-day period.

Italy

Citizens are allowed to move around their own regions, whilst regional mobility may be postponed until after 3 June, or restricted to regions that have the same risk level. Bars, restaurants and beaches re-opened on 18 May whilst gyms and swimming pools  re-opened on 25 June.

The Government has announced it is to re-open to European holidaymakers from 3 June, when quarantine will generally not be required.

Malta

Whilst shops have now re-opened, the vulnerable and the over 65s have been asked to remain at home and, where possible, work from home. It is anticipated that restaurants will open the week of 18 May.

Protocols to be issued on flights and accommodation, testing programmes plus social distancing rules at holiday resorts, beaches and restaurants, are expected to help pave the way for summer holidays in Malta via travel “corridors” with the following countries: Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel.

It is intended, as a first step, to re-start tourism between Malta and Gozo.

The official website of corona virus is: https://deputyprimeminister.gov.mt/en/health-promotion/Pages/Novel-coronavirus.aspx;

Morocco

Morocco is still subject to strict restrictions and the state of emergency has been extended until June 8.

During the state of emergency, Moroccans are required to limit their movements and all public places are closed.

Portugal

There has been a gradual sector-by-sector lifting of lockdown measures, starting 4th May and different sectors of the economy are being opened up every 15 days, starting with small neighbourhood shops.

As there was no significant increase in the number of cases, Portugal was able to move to phase two on 18 May, when larger shops (up to 400 sq metres), museums and senior schools re-opened, along with restaurants and coffee shops, at 50% capacity.   Beaches remain closed but swimming and surfing are permitted.

The next phase commences 1 June, when beaches re-open with distancing measures in place, a ban on sports activities as well as restrictions on the rental of sunbeds. Beaches will be flagged to indicate how busy they are.

Hotels are gradually starting to re-open, with 50% expected to be up and running by the end of May and the remainder, in June. The Portuguese tourism board has created a “Clean and Safe” label to highlight COVID-19 compliant establishments which meet standards on hygiene.

The border between Spain and Portugal is currently closed to tourists but is expected to re-open on 15 June. Commercial flights are currently suspended.

Spain

Hotels and resorts in popular tourist destinations, including the Costa del Sol, the Costa Brava, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands can now be open to domestic tourists (within the same province), with overseas visitors to be welcomed back in July.

As the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and some provinces in Andalusia are now in Phase 2 of the plan to lift lockdown restrictions, common areas at hotels may open at 33% capacity. Restaurants are also able to open at 40% capacity indoors with a guarantee of a 2 metre separation between tables, and at 50% capacity at outdoor terraced areas. Nightclubs remained closed.

Malaga and Granada (including the Costa del Sol), Comunidad Valenciana (including Benidorm) and the Costa Brava still remain in Phase 1 with the following restrictions:

Swimming pools, spas, gyms, mini clubs, children’s areas, discos, event rooms and spaces that are not essential must remain closed and social distancing measures must remain in place. Prior to re-opening, it will be necessary to clean the facilities, including common areas, service areas, bedrooms and accommodation units. The Ministry of Tourism and the tourism industry have already approved protocols for re-opening.

The wearing of face masks in public spaces is now compulsory in Spain, both indoors and outdoors, where social distancing cannot be maintained. This requirement remains in place during the ‘state of alarm’, which has been extended to 7 June.

Travellers coming to Spain have to self-isolate at a specific address for 14 days , a requirement that will remain in force until the end of June. From 1 July, Spain will be open to international tourism, without the need for self-isolation. 

For further details of the lockdown phases, go to https://www.spainenglish.com/2020/05/25/lifting-lockdown-spain-full-details-phases/

Switzerland

Switzerland is continuing to relax its lockdown measures, and people are able to go out and socialise more freely. At restaurants, tables take a maximum of four, with the exception of family groups, and must be kept two metres apart or separated with a partition.

Shops, schools, museums, travel agencies and libraries may also reopen and public transport has returned to standard timetables.

Tourism will be possible, but following the rules put in place by the governments of the different countries visited. The Swiss have been encouraged to take their summer holidays in their own country: Les Grisons, la Suisse orientale, le Valais et le Tessin being some of the most popular destinations in Switzerland.

An expanded reopening will follow on June 8, including the reopening of theatres, cinemas, gatherings of more than 5 people and professional sports fixtures.

Swiss Air is to operate a reduced number of flights (some 15 – 20%) from June.

The government has announced plans to re-open its borders with Germany, Austria and France on June 15, if the situation allows.

Tunisia

All borders currently remain closed, according to the website of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

On 26 May, the Tunisian government announced the following measures to relax the lockdown rules:

  • Reopening of restaurants and coffee-shops to provide take away meals and drinks, from June 4
  • Reopening of mosques, museums, sports halls and tourist facilities, at 50% capacity, also on June 4
  • It was decided to postpone the resumption of university courses until June 8
  • Last phase from June 5 to 14 should allow the reopening of kindergartens with some restrictions in place and the resumption of activities of training centres, museums, art galleries and archaeological sites.
  • From June 14 (post-containment period), the Tunisian government will allow the opening of cinemas and theatres at 50% capacity.
  • From June 14, reopening of exhibitions and conferences and the resumption of all sports activities.
Turkey

Shopping malls and some shops opened mid May, although a curfew at weekends and over Bank Holidays will remain in place until 1 June.

Land borders are expected to be opened by 15 June although resorts that have COVID-19 Certificates can open by 27 May, at 50% occupancy.

Domestic and transit flights will start by 27 May and there is now testing for COVID-19 at airports.

UK

The Government announced a three-phase plan,  commencing Wednesday 13 May, to lift the lockdown in the UK, dependent on keeping infections under control.

Phase 1: People who cannot work from home are encouraged to return to work, although workplaces should be Covid secure. The use of public transport is discouraged.

There is no limit to exercising outdoors and it is possible to meet someone from another household as long as it is outdoors and social distancing is maintained. It is possible to drive to beaches and parks with members of your own household.

Phase 2: The second stage, which will begin on June 1, will include a phased return of primary schools and nurseries.

In addition, travellers arriving in the UK (with the exception of those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) will be required to quarantine for 14 days, commencing June 8. Lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers, and coronavirus medics will be exempt from the rules but the rules cover those arriving from France, where reciprocal measures will be introduced the same day.

Phase 3: Under phase three, which will begin early July, some cafés, accommodations and restaurants will be allowed to re-open.

In Scotland, from 28 May, people will be able to meet friends in open spaces, play certain sports such as golf and tennis and go to parks.Schools will re-open in August.  A date has not yet been fixed for the re-opening of pubs and restaurants.

Wales has outlined a three-stage approach to reopening – Red, Amber and Green – where accommodation that does not use shared facilities is placed in the Amber group as lower risk and therefore able to open sooner than customer contact industries where physical distancing is more difficult.

Timeshare owners

Members of the public with queries about their timeshare have been advised to contact their resort or developer, who will be able to give them up-to-date information about the status of their booking or talk through their intended holiday plans. In addition to this, KwikChex, RDO’s enforcement department, is available to respond to queries about companies that are not in membership of RDO, via the Timeshare Helpline.

Assistance available to timeshare businesses

Governments around the world recognise the difficulty that the tourism industry is having in keeping going and in April, the G20 – the forum for international cooperation – held a meeting of tourism Ministers to discuss providing support to the sector. It is in the process of identifying challenges that have arisen from the crisis and will be developing and sharing further targeted responses to stimulate recovery and identify ways to improve resiliency in the sector.

Ministers will also ensure that the introduction and removal of travel restrictions are coordinated and proportionate to the national and international situation, but at the same time ensures the safety of travellers.

The Spanish Government has taken a number of measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 and has produced a series of questions and answers to clarify employers’ legal obligations and support them in protecting their businesses and staff.

The document below, includes details of the measures taken, covering employment, social security, employers’ obligations and access to detailed advice:

https://www.twobirds.com/en/news/articles/2020/spain/covid19-guidance-for-employers-in-spain

In the UK, the Government has put together a comprehensive package of support for businesses including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme where small and large employers will be eligible to apply for a government grant of 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month.The scheme has been extended to the end of October and from the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.
  • Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to help eligible freelance workers receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least three months. Those eligible will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the three years up to 2018/19.
  • Grant schemes – Businesses will be eligible for a £25,000 cash grant per property, for each property that has a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

What has RDO being doing?

Together with EUROC, the European timeshare owners’ association, RDO has been lobbying to ensure that the measures introduced provide the right level of support to timeshare businesses and, importantly, that the financial support continues during the recovery phase.

More detailed information and guidance is sent by email by the Secretariat to RDO members on a regular basis.

Find out more