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Can A New Covid-19 Strain And Ukraine Invasion Stop Travel’s Comeback?

Yet another Covid strain is threatening a fragile travel industry recovery. Russia just invaded Ukraine. But in the world’s tourism hotspots, officials are hoping for a bright future — and keeping a watchful eye on advance bookings.

After a pandemic that lasted longer than anyone expected, it’s a one-two punch that airlines, car rental companies, cruise lines, and hotels don’t need. And, of course, neither do travellers, who are busy thinking about summer vacations.

The bad news: BA.2, a more infectious omicron variant, will almost certainly affect some popular destinations. So will Russia’s military action against Ukraine. The good news: As of now, it looks like the repercussions won’t be severe and, in some cases, may not even be noticeable. Interviews with tourism executives and travellers in one popular destination suggest that the travel recovery could be real this time.

How will BA.2 affect tourism?

BA.2, which the World Health Organization classifies as a variant of concern, is on travellers’ radar. Although omicron cases have fallen, as have many restrictions, health officials remain worried that BA.2, which is 30% more transmissible than omicron, may begin to spread, starting yet another wave of infections.

If BA.2 takes off — and it’s still too early to tell if it will — that could prompt yet another round of travel restrictions and closures. If that happens during the summer vacation planning season in March and April, it could put a dent in bookings. The most vulnerable markets are international, where flight demand is already depressed.

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