Coronavirus lockdown and international travel: The countries offering to pay tourists to visit

As the global pandemic continues, many popular holiday destinations are being hit hard by the closed borders and grounded flights. 

As countries begin to reopen to tourists, some locations are hoping to lure visitors back with discounts, and in some cases, even offers of a partially paid-for holiday. 

The latest to take part in this trend is the city of Cancún in Mexico. Over 200 private businesses in the holiday hotspot known for its beautiful beaches have set up a private initiative to offer travellers money off. 

The theme of the initiative is the number two. For instance, hotels will offer two nights free for every two nights booked, or a free stay for two children when two adults book. Tourists would get two days free car hire for every two days they book. 

Puerto Morelos, Tulum and the Caribbean island of Isa Mujeres, eight miles off the coast of Cancún, are all also expected to take part in the initiative when they reopen. 

Cancun beac.

Cancun beach. Photo: iStock

"We are very happy and above all, committed because of the great participation in this campaign of the different state hotel associations as well as the tourist industry generally," said Roberto Cintron, President of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres Hotels Association, of the move.

"It's designed to reactivate holidays to our destinations after the crisis caused by Covid-19." Tourism will reopen in Mexico from June 8 and the initiative will start a week later on June 15.

Sicily, Japan and Bulgaria have also brought out similar plans in recent weeks. Sicily was the first to do so in early May, and the regional government is planning a $90 million campaign to attract tourists back to the island in the autumn. 

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The plan will include subsidising travellers who book flight and accommodation packages, by paying half their air fare. 

One free night of accommodation in three will also be offered as well as free entry to Sicily's numerous world-class museums and archeological sights, including the Temples of Agrigento and the Villa Romana del Casale. (For details, keep an eye on the regional website visitsicily.com). 

Mt Etna between roman ruins in Sicily.

Mt Etna between roman ruins in Sicily. Photo: iStockphoto

There have also been reports that Italians will be offered $900 to go on holiday within the country, to boost Italy's domestic tourism, though these are as yet unconfirmed.

Japan then followed suit later in the month, as it lifted its state of emergency and began to ease lockdown restrictions.

In a May 20 news conference, Hiroshi Tabata of the Japan Tourism Agency announced the country was looking to boost tourism by subsidising a portion of travellers' expenses. 

$22.65 billion ($18.48 billion) will be allocated to the new reimbursement programme for tourism and the programme could launch as early as July, if the country's infection rate continues on its current downward trajectory. On May 25, Japan reported just 31 new cases of Covid-19.

Unfortunately it then emerged later that this scheme would only be aimed at domestic tourism – though a plan for international tourism may follow at a later date once longer-haul flights resume. 

This is made more likely by Japan's position as one of the world's worst-affected tourism industries, due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, originally scheduled for July but moved to 2021. 

The country saw a 99.9 per cent year-on-year drop in visitors during April, ahead of a summer when it was expecting a significant spike in visits.

Bulgaria, a location that has grown in popularity as a budget beach destination in recent years, has also announced its own plans to entice tourists post-lockdown. 

Many of the country's beaches will become free for tourists to enter, as well as amenities such as sun loungers and umbrellas. 

While this isn't quite as good as a subsidised holiday, the offer will help make an already good value destination even more affordable. 

The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna, Bulgaria.

The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna, Bulgaria. Photo: iStockphoto

Britain could also follow in Japan's footsteps, and give money to residents to travel domestically within the UK. 

In a statement to The Sun, Visit Britain boss Patricia Yates said the tourism board ws looking at financial incentives within the UK.

"For every country, kickstarting the domestic market is really important and Italy has gone with that idea," she said. "It is an interesting suggestion for us if we look at what others are doing."

"So we could be looking at marketing campaigns or yes, you could give money straight to people and incentivise them to holiday at home."

The FCO is still advising against all but essential travel and a mandatory 14-day quarantine will be in effect for those arriving into the country from June 8, but those booking holidays for later in the year may still be able to take advantage of the discounts.

The Telegraph, London

See also: The 11 destinations Australians should be able to visit in 2021

See also: Fast trains, slow bars: The 11 things from overseas I miss the most

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