Thursday 26 March 2020

NETHERLANDS: Tourists Stuck In Various Countries As Countries Shutdown

The some 200 thousand Dutch tourists stuck abroad are running out of time and possibilities to get home as more and more countries close their borders and global air traffic gets closer to being shut down.

Some 150 thousand people are at risk of getting stranded for a long time, travel agencies and airlines say.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to bring as many stranded tourists home as possible, Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs said.

But it involves hundreds of thousands of people, and that takes time, he said. One of the very concrete things we do is ask for extra landing possibilities, so that as many as possible planes with Dutch can fly back and forth.

Many countries are keeping their airspace closed, meaning that repatriation flights need to require special permission from the authorities.

The Ministry is currently trying to keep the airspace at the borders of South European and North African countries open.

Around 30 thousand Dutch people were stuck there, half of whom were brought home during the week, the association of travel agencies ANVR said.

Airlines are flying extra flights to bring tourists back. This is the only type of flight Transavia is currently still performing. The airline performed 36 such flights over the past days.

TUI and Corendon are also deploying additional planes. KLM is focused on popular holiday destinations, according to the newspaper.

One such KLM flight was prevented from landing in Ecuador on Wednesday evening. The plane had picked up 185 travelers in Quito, and was scheduled to pick up another 164 in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city.

But when the plane approached, it was told it could not land. The runway was occupied by a worried mayor and a group of people.

The mayor thought the plane was bringing tourists from Europe who may be infected with the coronavirus.

This while we only had travellers on board who had to go to Europe. We were therefore unable to pick up the 164 travellers in Guayaquil. The plane flew directly to Amsterdam. KLM will again try to pick up travellers in Ecuador on Friday.

An estimated 100 thousand Dutch people are in distant locations around the world, according to the newspaper. Travellers in Asia, Australia and Africa can still try to fly home through the Gulf States, where air traffic has not been completely halted yet.

KLM is also planning repatriation flights to Peru, India, Colombia, Costa Rica and the Philippines in the coming days.

The outbreak of coronavirus Covid-19 means that tourism from China to the Netherlands will decrease even more than previous estimations, according to the Netherlands' office for tourism and congresses NBTC.

Last month the agency said that the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Netherlands would decrease from around 380 thousand last year to 300 thousand this year. Now NBTC expects the decrease to be even stronger, NOS reports.

The Covid-19 outbreak resulted in travel restrictions and measures from the market. Airlines like KLM are no longer flying to China.

Every month that air traffic to and from China is halted, the European tourism sector misses out on 1 billion euros, the European Commission calculated this week. According to ING, the Dutch tourism sector misses out on around 40 million euros a month.

While that is a lot, it is not massive compared to the total amount of tourism spending in the Netherlands, at 13.5 billion euros, Thijs Geijer of ING said to NOS.

Around two percent of the total hotel stays booked by foreign tourists in the Netherlands are booked by people from China. That is really only a small share, he said.

While entrepreneurs from other sectors may eventually be harder hit by the virus, its effect on the tourism sector is immediately noticeable, Geijer said.

Travel agencies are already noticing that Dutch people are delaying vacation plans.

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