Vacations with a bonus
Flight options remain limited around the world, several countries have quarantine on arrival in place and both the UK and the US advise against all but essential travel, but this hasn’t stopped some destinations offering travelers lucrative deals. From discounts on airplane fares and free tickets to attractions to free hotel nights and even spending money, these places are doing everything to entice travelers and bring tourism back.
Tourism is vital to the island and more than $1.09 billion (£900m) have been lost in tourism-related revenue since the country went into lockdown. Now the island has set aside $84 million (£68m) of regional government money to offer travelers vouchers to help with hotel costs as well as entrance tickets to museums and other tourist attractions. Travelers will be able to apply via the Visit Sicily website when the scheme opens.
Why consider Sicily?
Another place heavily dependent on tourism is Cancún in Mexico. Taking example from other destinations, the Cancún Hotel Association has launched a Come to Cancún 2 x 1 project to bring tourism back to the area and other popular resort spots like Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres. The scheme includes various offers like two free nights for every two paid nights and money off participating theme parks, spas and golf courses.
Why consider Cancún?
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria’s most popular beach destination, is preparing to welcome back both domestic and international visitors as the resorts have planned to gradually open up from 1 July. According to The Sofia Globe, a voucher scheme for tourists has been discussed and for the 2020 season beach umbrellas, sunloungers and tables would be free-of-charge – this could save a family of four as much as $176 (£140) on a week-long vacation just for the sunloungers with even more savings on beach umbrellas and tables.
Why consider Sunny Beach?
Normally, Greece’s tourism season would be bracing for its busiest months, however, the COVID-19 crisis has affected many vacationers’ plans. As the tourism industry is vital to Greece’s economy, the government is eager to support the return of tourists. To encourage visitors, the country is essentially making it cheaper by reducing the value added tax (VAT) on all transport, including flights, bus journeys and rail travel. The previous 24% VAT will now be temporarily slashed to 13%.
Why consider Greece?
Greece has 227 populated islands scattered liberally in two different seas, the Aegean (east) and the Ionian (west), so there are plenty remote and off-the-beaten-track spots you could pick for your crowd-free summer vacation. And by avoiding big-hitter names like Rhodes, Corfu or Mykonos, you can visit beauty spots like the stunning rock formations of Milos (pictured), totally relax in quiet Kythnos or dive deep into the idyllic coves of Lefkada. Discover more secret Greek islands.
Hotel deals around the world
B&Bs, hotels and resorts of all sizes have had to take huge losses due to paying out refunds and being forced to close as most of the planet entered some variation of lockdown. Now, hoteliers have introduced a variety of promotions, from free nights and food credits to gift vouchers and room upgrades, according to Travel Pulse, to get bookings going again. Some hotels like The Crescent Hotel Beverly Hills and Classic Hotels & Resorts are also using the promotional offers to donate some proceeds to charity and give away free stays to healthcare workers.
Hotel deals around the world
Among the hotels offering huge savings is the Playa Hotels & Resorts chain in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Its Once-In-A-Lifetime Savings program offers automatic room upgrades, resort credit and the company’s lowest-ever rates. For those who had booked a Caribbean break, there are plenty of tempting deals to reschedule rather than cancel too, from food-and-beverage credits at the Curaçao Marriott Beach to third-night-free promotion at the newly renovated Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve in Puerto Rico.
Hotel credits for stays in the US and Mexico
Another way of supporting the travel industry and enjoy huge savings is purchasing gift cards or hotel credits. US-based booking website Porter & Sail has introduced Hotel Credits for bookings in various countries around the world, including the US, Canada and Mexico as well as the UK, Italy, Costa Rica, Kenya and more. Created to support independent hotels in particular, credits can be used for future bookings and, in some instances, in the hotel’s restaurants and bars too.
Hotel credits for stays in the US and Mexico
There are several levels of savings available, like $100 (£81) on $300 (£243) credits and $500 (£405) on $1,500 (£1,210) credits, and you can plan everything from city breaks to beach vacations. Among the hotels you could book is the hip Williamsburg Hotel in New York City, romantic Hotel Villa Flori on the shore of Lake Como in Italy and relaxed Casa Cat Ba in Isla Holbox in Mexico for a chilled out beachfront hideaway.
Free coronavirus tests in Iceland
Ready to reopen the country to travelers on 15 June, Iceland – a country that’s only seen just under 2,000 cases – will offer tourists a free COVID-19 test on arrival. If the test is negative, travelers are free to enjoy the country and is peace of mind too, while those who test positive will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. According to reports by Insider, it’s yet unknown whether the tests will only be free for the initial two week period or beyond. Discover the world’s cities before, during and after lockdown.
Why consider Iceland?
Iceland is surely one of the best European destinations for crowd-free activities as the country’s unspoiled natural beauty is famed across the world. Skip the well-trodden paths and big hitters of the Golden Circle and discover Iceland’s second city Akureyri and stunning sites like Mývatn Lake, Húsavík (pictured) and Dettifoss – one of Europe’s mightiest waterfalls. If you do stay in Reykjavík, why not explore its hip and up-and-coming Grandi harbor district.
Free coronavirus tests in Madeira
Portuguese islands of Madeira are ready to open to international travelers from 1 July too and are also offering free tests on arrival. The islands of Madeira haven’t had any coronavirus-related deaths and are hoping this strategy will ensure the islands remain safe to visit. All vacationers can either present a negative test done within 72 hours prior to departure or the local government will cover the costs of the test on arrival.
Why consider Madeira?
Another destination with natural wonders aplenty, the islands of Madeira have long been a top destination for a bit of peace and quiet. Located in the Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco, you can count on excellent weather and a beguiling mix of mountains and beaches. Its flower-filled capital Funchal is an excellent base for exploring the rest of the island while miles of walking trails stretching through the island offer access to everything from waterfalls to wildflower-strewn valleys.
Cyprus making visitors feel safe
A country with a relatively low number of cases, Cyprus is eager to welcome visitors back to the island as summer vacations approach. The busiest time of year for the Mediterranean nation, tourism accounts for around 15% of the country’s GDP. In a letter made public on 27 May, the government has promised to pay for accommodation, medicine and food for anyone who tests positive for the virus after traveling to Cyprus. With less than 1,000 confirmed cases (at the time of writing), the country believes this is enough to prove it’s a safe destination to visit this summer.
Why consider Cyprus?
Known for its buzzing city Paphos and many resorts, Cyprus has a lot more to offer. Western Cyprus is a good place to start – 25 miles (40km) north from Paphos lies Akamas National Park, offering visitors everything from mountain climbing and kayaking to softer adventures like hikes through orchid-covered Smigies nature trail. There are also several quieter resorts in this area of the island for peaceful relaxation after all the adventures.
Unfortunately, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime deals turn out too good to be true and that’s exactly the case with Japan. At the end of May news outlets were reporting travelers might be able to receive support from the government and it was suggested they would even pay your air fare. Japan Tourism Agency spokesperson Hiroshi Tabata announced in a press conference that the government is setting aside $12.6 billion (£10.2bn) to encourage tourism and many already started dreaming of a vacation in Japan…
… but only for locals
As the news spread like wildfire, the Japan Tourism Agency was forced to clarify that this offer will only be applied to domestic travelers. As Japan’s tourism experienced a flooring 99.9% year-on-year drop in tourism, the government is committed to help restart the industry by helping domestic travelers. However, at the moment it’s still a proposal and it remains to be seen whether the Japanese government will help people visit the likes of Himeji Castle, Mount Fuji and the ancient streets of Kyoto (pictured).
In the UK the tourism industry has taken a massive hit too with most of the country forced into lockdown, however, many within the industry are hopeful that staycations could return before the summer is over. Speaking to The Sun, VisitBritain’s acting CEO Patricia Yates said that various financial incentives are being considered, agreeing that “you could give money straight to people and incentivize them to holiday at home”.
Special offers to ICU staff
An offer aimed exclusively at the intensive care workers in the National Health Service (NHS), Nights On Us is offering every ICU worker in the UK a two-night hotel stay once the pandemic is over. A collaborative effort by travel professionals, media and hotels, ICU workers will be able to pick a stay at one of the many hotels that have already pledged. These include The Savoy in London, stately Grantley Hall mansion in Yorkshire and Oxford’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – the vision of chef Raymond Blanc.
Citizens in Italy and Slovenia are also encouraged to travel domestically this summer. Italian government’s ambitious Relaunch Decree offers families a vacation bonus of up to $559 (£453). The bonuses will be paid out by covering 80% of vacation accommodation costs and the other 20% can be claimed back as tax credit. Meanwhile, in Slovenia, citizens will be able to get electronic vouchers worth $223 (£181) for adults and $56 (£45) for kids to then spend in hotels, campsites and restaurants locally.
Here’s what the future of travel looks like
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