RKI study refutes politicians: traveling to holiday destinations is not a pandemic risk

Travel is a major driver of pandemics and must be restricted or even banned – you hear that a lot from German politics. A study by the Robert Koch Institute now clearly refutes this statement for the so-called second wave after the summer holidays.

"In the second wave, travel-related infections only play a very subordinate role because the autochthonous transmission (by locals, note d. Red.) predominates, "concludes the RKI. It seemed clear that it was precisely the many vacation trips that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.

Two to three weeks after the end of the vacation, an increase in the seven-day incidence was noticeable in many federal states.

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RKI study refutes politicians: Travel to vacation countries was not a pandemic driver

A look at the countries in which most of the return travelers were infected provides initial information about the motives of the travelers. Kosovo is in first place, followed by Croatia, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania, followed by Bulgaria in eighth place.

With the exception of Turkey, none of these are classic holiday destinations – there are still reasons for traveling between these countries and Germany.

Among the countries are those "from which contract workers come to Germany (Romania, Bulgaria)" and home countries of many immigrants (Turkey, Kosovo). On the other hand, France and Spain, which are in sixth and seventh place on the list, are classic holiday destinations. But weren't many cases brought to Germany from such countries over a long period of time?

Yes, states the RKI, but notes that it was much lower than the high incidences in the holiday countries suggested. The reason the institute suspects is plausible.

Large overview – to which countries you are currently allowed to travel – and under which conditions

"Less intensive contact with the local population" in classic vacation trips

"When traveling to frequent holiday destinations, there was less intensive contact with the local population and therefore a lower risk of infection in contrast to people who traveled to their home country to visit families." "Overnight stays in hotels, which were often subject to hygiene rules last summer," also contributed to this.

The German Travel Association, whose president sees "the travel industry, which has been extremely shaken by the pandemic, pushed further to the brink", gladly accepts this assessment.

While the RKI restricts the fact that the low number of reported infections in Spain and France could also be due to the fact that both were classified as risk areas at a late stage and tests were not mandatory, the DRV emphasizes that "the classic organized holiday trip only shows a low level of infection has contributed in Germany ".

Travel industry open to test offensive: will this make vacation possible again soon?

But the study does not only look into the past. By pointing out that testing will remain extremely important for those returning to travel, she is running open doors in the travel industry. Ralph Schiller, managing director of the tour operator FTI, emphasizes in the "Süddeutsche" newspaper that in future vacationers will have to be tested before and after departure, and that this is also possible.

That was also done in 2020 and of 80,000 holidaymakers in Turkey who were tested with PCR tests, only 0.3 percent (around 250 people) were positive. He also attributes this to strict hygiene regulations in the hotels there.

Tour operators demand step-by-step plan: "Politicians have to talk to us and trust us"

This is not the only reason why the DRV calls for a step-by-step plan for a restart of tourism that includes systematic and strategic testing. "Politicians have to talk to us about it and have confidence in us," demands FTI boss Schiller and at the same time makes a promise. "We will do everything we can to ensure that the number of infections caused by vacation trips does not go up."

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In any case, it is unlikely to fail because of the Germans' desire to travel. Many tour operators lure with offers that can be canceled at short notice or those that can be rebooked. For example, Tui sees a very strong demand for holidays inland in the summer, for example in Bavaria and on the Baltic Sea coast. Demand is also currently increasing for nearby destinations such as Austria or Italy.

In the Mediterranean, the demand for islands such as Crete, Mallorca, Kos and Rhodes is particularly high. For these goals in particular, organizers expect a "strong catch-up effect". But whether this will and can occur depends above all on the restrictions that Germany will have in the summer.