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December 13, 2022 / Riskline Newsroom

Travel Outlook: What to expect when travelling this holiday season

Whether your destination is an exotic tropical island or a traditional Christmas market, travel chaos won’t reach last summer’s levels. However, if you plan to travel during this holiday season, expect disruptions in multiple destinations until the beginning of January.

By Claudia Gualdi

Overview of travel rules

In the past few months, destinations have been easing travel restrictions in an effort to embrace more COVID-19-tolerant policies and resume international travel. Although many European countries recorded an autumn surge in COVID-19 infections, authorities have not reimposed travel restrictions heading into the winter months. Some countries in the Pacific and Middle East do maintain partial entry measures, such as minor testing and self-isolation requirements but these are no longer as strictly enforced as they have been since 2021.

If travelling to China, Tuvalu or Turkmenistan, among other countries, quarantine upon arrival is still mandated and you may be forced to spend it in government facilities, while most other destinations permit travellers to opt-out of self-isolation by taking PCR tests, usually within 24 hours of their arrival. Only a handful of countries, namely, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, still maintain nightly public health curfews.

After protests sparked across China, the Chinese government is finally embracing a new approach and seems to be smoothing its tough “zero-COVID” policy, loosening measures such as localised lockdowns, quarantine camps and nationwide mass testing, although there is no plan to abandon it completely before the end of 2023. While daily infections are likely to surge in the next weeks, as a consequence of the full reopening of businesses in mainland China, ticket sales have soared, especially for domestic travel.

Several destinations including American Samoa, the Philippines and India have eased entry restrictions after almost two years of stringent entry policies, allowing unvaccinated travellers to enter for tourism.

Since the emergence of COVID-19, health measures pioneered against the virus have also been applied to other epidemic disease outbreaks, such as Mpox. Authorities in Peru and Trinidad and Tobago mandate health screenings upon arrival, testing, and may enforce a 21-day quarantine period for suspected Mpox cases.

Non-medical travel barriers have also increased in the past year, with the return of open warfare in Europe between Russia and Ukraine. Ongoing visa bans, notably for Russian nationals seeking to obtain tourist Schengen visas, continue to bar Russian nationals’ entry to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition to the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Poland, Norway and Finland have tightened their visa policies in an effort to limit visa applications. Similar to Italy, which requires Russian nationals to present a biometric passport instead of old-style international Russian passports and increased the costs of consular fees for the issuance of passports to Russians

Some African nationals wishing to enter Dubai on tourist visas will be banned from December until further notice, due to a visa ban introduced by authorities on 18 October without clear explanation.

Mass strikes and flight suspensions are expected in the next few weeks

Authorities anticipate winter travel to return to near-pre-pandemic levels, with passenger volumes having risen over 200 percent since the beginning of the year in various airports and airlines, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Travel chaos will likely continue throughout mid-January, with significant disruptions, delays and flight cancellations, particularly in Europe.

The most-affected areas for potential strike-related disruptions include France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK), where multiple strikes by bus and rail drivers, airport workers and border force employees are scheduled. Significant disruptions will impact London airports during the Christmas period.

If you plan to fly during the next several weeks, expect long queues for security checks and baggage claims, long wait times and delays due to staff shortages and ongoing strikes. Crew members of many airlines, namely Lufthansa, TAP Air, Ryanair, Vueling and Air France, have called for multiple strikes, scheduled between mid-December and early January, amid ongoing disputes over working conditions.

Safety risk tips for attending Christmas markets and New Year’s Eve celebrations

From the Old Square of Prague to Bryant Park in Manhattan, every year, hundreds of Christmas villages and markets open around the globe. Some have become regular tourist attractions, with open air concerts and festive celebrations running from early November to late January, street foods and thousands of stalls selling handicrafts and other great gift ideas.

Although many public events were scaled back over the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of them seem to be back on their normal schedule for this holiday season.

Within Europe, cheap flight tickets and multiple organised tours offer travellers the possibility to explore a wide choice of the best Christmas villages around Germany, the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen or the historic Nativity plays of Italy, just to mention a few options. Expo City in Dubai has been transformed into a huge winter wonderland, welcoming travellers from all over the world after the Emirates fully reopened to international inbound tourists in November.

Anticipate enhanced security checks at entry and long queues on weekends. At many venues, cash is typically the preferred form of payment. Authorities may elevate security around areas where markets are occurring and also increase security forces around Christian and Jewish houses of worship during the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah. If attending such events, anticipate heightened security, remain vigilant and report suspicious packages or behaviour to local authorities.

Following a relaxation of gathering limits, New Year’s Eve (NYE) celebrations will also resume all over the world. In most places, masks are no longer required and entrance may be unrestricted, regardless of the vaccination status of participants. Visitors may be encouraged to get tested before entering such venues, where standard sanitary precautions can still be enforced. Assaults and fights are a potential risk in plazas and squares holding celebrations on NYE’s. Exercise caution during NYE celebrations and fireworks shows and report any suspicious behaviour to local authorities.

Claudia Gualdi is our Greece-based COVID Team Lead. Baya Faure, Catherine Soltero and Farhan Rafi contributed to this article.

About Riskline
Riskline is a world-class travel risk intelligence company. We provide country and city risk assessments and real-time alert messaging to fulfil Duty of Care requirements before and during travel. Trusted by global travel management companies, small businesses and everyone in between, Riskline has been in operation since 2007 and is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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