(CNN) – Cities around the world are being hit by Covid-19 as travelers avoid visiting large metropolitan areas during the global pandemic. The number of tourists in the metropolises has fallen again. In Madrid, tourist arrivals fell by 63.8% in the first half of 2020.
The components that normally make for a great getaway to the city are now precisely the reasons travelers stay away. Overcrowded museums, restaurants and public transportation are not attractive in the time of Covid-19 if we are encouraged to distance ourselves socially to reduce the risk of contagion.
Avoid the big city
“Many cities have been badly hit by the pandemic, so galloping around dying is not a good sight,” says New York-based travel writer and editor Teddy Minford.
Although U.S. residents can visit Mexico, many opt for more remote locations like these ruins in Chiapas as opposed to visiting Mexico City.
Rodrigo Arangua / AFP / Getty Images
Minford canceled a trip to Mexico City in March but looks forward to seeing it as soon as it’s safe. “I hope I can go there soon to support one of my favorite travel destinations with tourism dollars,” she says.
Mexico has been hard hit by the virus, with 761,665 reported cases and 79,088 deaths. Mexico City’s population is estimated at nearly 22 million people, making it difficult to avoid crowded places. Trips to the Mexican capital usually include visits to world-famous museums, roadside taquerias, and day trips to ancient indigenous sites like the Teotihuacan Pyramids.
Mexico is open to American tourists, but since Minford does not yet feel responsible for visiting Mexico City, she visits a family in rural America. “Visiting remotely feels safer. You are less likely to accidentally make someone sick just because you hardly see anyone.”
What is still open?
The decline in city holidays is the result of advice on avoiding crowds, indoor activities, and high-risk attractions. Travelers are also put off by the fear of getting stuck in a city that may be re-quarantined.
With Broadway closed until May 2021 and Times Square in NYC looking very different these days, many travelers pass the city vacation on.
Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images
There is also uncertainty about which attractions are open to visitors as many major cities are partially closed. “We haven’t booked a single vacation in town. Fear of the virus has a lot to do with it, but it’s about missing out on the actual experience,” said Sarah Groen, owner of Bell & Bly Travel. For her customers, trips to Chicago, London, Beijing and New York are off the table.Coronavirus has halted urban retreat. Hotel occupancy in the urban markets fell by 77.6%. Rural colleagues do better. For example, the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn in Auburn, New York (population 26,000) told CNN Travel that the occupancy rate of the hotel led the highest 2% of occupancy for the entire Hilton brand in the United States. Similarly, the mountain town of Aspen, Colorado has seen a steady flow of tourists since June – the total number of visitors only declined 7% as of 2019.
(It remains to be seen what the trip to Aspen will be like during the ski season.)
Road trips and RV life
RV rental is also booming during the pandemic. RVshare fall bookings rose 123%. Kesi Irvin, a long-term traveler, was scheduled to fly to Detroit but canceled the morning of the flight. Instead, she went on a road trip with friends through South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana in a motor home – a trip the self-proclaimed “city girl” would never have made without the pandemic.
Staying in a big city hotel is over; Motorhome trips are in.
“A road trip through Central America provided the much-needed rest,” says Irvin. “I have to thank the pandemic for showing me the beauty of the US and the healing nature of traveling to rural areas.”
Major tourism conglomerates have evidence that the pandemic has encouraged travelers to stay away from city breaks. Amtrak Vacations told CNN Travel that train travel to destinations in the city is down 8% compared to the same period last year. American rail traffic saw a decline in journeys to New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC
Visitor spending in the U.S. capital declined 81 percent ($ 6.5 billion) from March to September, and hotel revenue fell 89 percent ($ 1.2 billion) from March to September, according to the city’s tourism authority. Dollars) back.
Scott’s Cheap Flights surveyed members in July, telling CNN Travel that only around 18% of respondents said they were traveling to a large city. Gabby Beckford, a travel blogger, predicts she will visit a major city outside of the United States by early 2021.
Beckford planned to travel to cities around the world this year, but instead visited smaller locations in her home state of Virginia. She says the rural areas were thrilled to have travelers backing the local tourism economy, as big cities usually get all of the tourism traffic. Beckford longs to visit friends in Los Angeles, but she has chosen to avoid big cities.
Places like the Blue Ridge Mountains in Appalachia have become increasingly popular amid the pandemic.
Many international travelers are following suit. In 2019, some of the most popular attractions on GetYourGuide were the Colosseum in Rome, Italy; Tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece of the Last Supper in Milan, Italy; and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. These popular spots in Italy are distant memories – travelers are now using the platform to book nature and outdoor activities instead. Italy had one of the strictest locks. The capital Rome saw a sharp drop in tourism and many hotels have yet to reopen. According to Giuseppe Roscioli, president of the Roman hotel association Federalberghi, the hotel industry in the city is losing 100 million euros a month. Roman hotels have halved their fees in hopes of resuming tourism in the city.
Calls in the country
However, travelers in Italy still choose to visit destinations in the country with a smaller population. “Italians are looking for more remote options like mountains, nature reserves, and bodies of water like oceans and lakes. For Italians, London and Paris have been replaced by the Etna Mountains and the Maddalena Archipelago,” says Carlee Stellfox Loya, manager at GetYourGuide.
Due to the pandemic, travelers like Patricia Estrada are choosing to visit Italian cities like Calabria (pictured) instead of major European cities.
Alfonso Di Vincenzo / KONTROLAB / LightRocket / Getty Images
Patricia Estrada, who lives in Florence, usually goes on weekend trips to European cities. Due to the pandemic, she has instead visited Italian cities such as Calabria, La Spezia and Corniglia. “I feel like traveling to a busy city is contributing to the spread of this virus,” she says.
Other travelers based in Europe have chosen not to visit cities, although it is easy to travel between major cities across the continent as city travel just isn’t attractive during the pandemic. Yishyene C., a travel blogger in Portugal, had plans to travel to London, but ever-changing rules and restrictions kept her in Portugal. She has done road trips in the country and stopped in less visited cities. She intentionally skipped Lisbon to reduce the risk of infection or transmission of the virus.
“It seemed like a good decision to stay out of cities,” she says. “The idea of fleeing to a city has lost its appeal. In particular, given the new rules that require many facilities to reduce capacity or opening hours, it doesn’t seem worth the time, effort, or money.”
Smaller cities have also scored a hit. In Finland, overnight stays in the capital Helsinki fell by 75 and less from March to June, despite a relatively low number of Covid-19 cases. Half of the overnight stays in the city came from business trips. Heli Mende, Head of Visit Finland North America, said that tourism in Helsinki typically generates 1.6 billion euros a year.
Even relatively small cities like Helsinki have seen a decline in visitor numbers, many of whom choose to spend time in more remote parts of the country.
It is no surprise that all trips booked by travel planner Groen for 2020 to European capitals have been canceled. One of her clients wanted to go to Paris but decided to wait and move on to the future if they didn’t have to worry about the restaurants and attractions they want to visit being open.
Flexible itineraries around the city are next to impossible as many bucket list websites and restaurants require prior reservations. For example, the Louvre is open, but it is recommended to reserve a time slot in advance to guarantee entry. “People just aren’t interested in spending their vacations worrying about what they’re missing out on,” commented Groen.
It’s easier to mitigate the risk by avoiding epicentres of deadly virus-dense urban areas. City breaks are likely to remain off the table for most travelers until a Covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available.
Travel to the city will return, but until then, travelers are expected to continue pouring their expenses into long-distance tourism as the pandemic worsens.