The pandemic’s long – term consequences for tourism in key locations are still uncertain. Some fear the lack of revenue could hinder important repairs. Others see an opportunity in the sudden silence: a chance for nature to recover and for a subsequent movement towards sustainable tourism.
Some attractions, such as the Great Wall of China, have in recent months seen an influx of domestic visitors who have replaced foreign ones. Meanwhile, other sites, such as Peru’s Machu Picchu, are still waiting to reopen for large-scale tourism.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Less than two weeks after Italy became the first country to impose a nationwide shutdown in response to the new coronavirus, Mexico was to celebrate six months of leveling at the pyramid at Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, the ruins of an ancient city built by the Mayans.
The event in late March – an illusion of natural light and shadow that casts a moving snake on the steps of the pyramid – usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
But days before the ceremony was to take place, authorities canceled the plan citing the spread of coronavirus. A severe increase in infections over the summer pushed many of the 11 million Mexicans who depend on tourism into unemployment and poverty.
Mexican authorities gradually reopened archeological sites last month, including the Mayan city of Teotihuacan, after implementing temperature controls, mask mandates and social distance rules. All sites operate with reduced capacity.
The Chinese wall
By the time many Mexican places reopened to small crowds last month, the Great Wall of China was already about the return of overcrowding.
As China, the initial epicenter of the pandemic, aggressively curbed the spread of the virus, domestic tourism filled many of the gaps created by the shortage of foreign travelers. While visitors to the Great Wall of China were still sparse in early May, booking increased in the following weeks.
Earlier this month, China’s government-run newspaper Global Times described crowded scenes during a national holiday where tourists at the Great Wall of China were made to “wait and stand in line as they passed through some narrow and steep stairs.”
Rome opened many of its tourist sites in June, but required the purchase of online tickets to the Colosseum and other major attractions.
Although it was among one of the first global attractions to reopen after Italy’s early nationwide lockdown, few tourists came to Rome this summer.
Some were put off by the perception of Italy as an early hot spot for coronavirus, despite the fact that the country had one of Europe’s lowest infection rates during the summer. Others were unable to fly in due to the European Union’s entry ban on travelers from most countries outside the bloc.
At the end of July, tickets for the Colosseum were still available at short notice and there were no lines outside the normally packed entrances.
As Italy now faces an increase in infections, the country is supporting stricter restrictions this winter.
Taj Mahal, India
In one of the world’s most virus – affected nations, India’s 17th-century mausoleum reopened the Taj Mahal at the end of last month after a six-month closure.
Known in India as a symbol of love, the Taj Mahal reopened under strict health precautions, including limited number of visitors and required masks.
“We will send the message that things are not so bad and that you will be safe if you follow the instructions,” Vasant Swarnkar, a representative of the Archaeological Survey of India Agency, told Agence France-Presse.
India has not yet opened up to foreign travelers and companies are worried that the revenue from domestic travelers will not be sufficient to compensate for the losses.
“People do not want to go on holiday,” Manu PV, a representative of an Indian tourist association, told Reuters. “They are very worried. There is the fear factor. ”
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Even destinations that remained available this year were hit hard by steep declines in the number of visitors.
Cambodia’s religious temple complex in Angkor Wat remained open most of the year. But ticket revenue from foreign travelers fell 97 percent year-on-year in September, the Khmer Times reported.
Christ the Redeemer statue, Brazil
As the coronavirus spread in Brazil – while President Jair Bolsonaro spotted it and refused to impose strict curbs – Rio de Janeiro’s 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue turned into a reminder of the pandemic’s human toll.
The statue was shown in a doctor’s coat during a light projection on April 12, Easter Sunday, when the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop Dom Orani João Tempesta celebrated a mass near its base in honor of health professionals.
“The reopening of Christ [monument] symbolizes the reopening of Brazil to tourism, ”Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said, according to AFP.
Machu Picchu, Peru
For business owners in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, a gateway for visitors to the 15th-century Inca citadel, the pandemic has been a major economic challenge. The vast majority of visitors left the country on home flights after the closure of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu’s original reopening date in July was delayed as cases rose in the country.
Last weekend, the place finally reopened to a Japanese tourist who had been waiting seven months for his trip. Jesse Katayama, 26, a boxing instructor, decided to stay behind after Peru declared a state of emergency – a day before he saw the ancient ruins.
Sympathetic locals lobbied on his behalf, and the Peruvian government agreed to make an exception this month.
The site is expected to start attracting other visitors with reduced capacity next month as the country gradually opens up to foreign travelers in the midst of a drop in cases.