Hello and welcome back to Axios World!
An island of empty chairs. Photo: Cedrick Isham Calvados/AFP via Getty Images
Tourist hotspots around the world face a daunting challenge: how to bring in much-needed visitors while keeping COVID-19 out.
Why it matters: As the summer season heats up in the Northern Hemisphere, that’s a multitrillion-dollar question.
Zoom in: Few places on Earth are more dependent on international arrivals than Aruba, where tourism accounted for 86% of GDP in 2018.
Antigua and Barbuda has set a more precise date. A flight from Miami on June 4 will be the first international arrival in 10 weeks. Flights from New York are expected to resume later in the summer.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the future is more uncertain. I chatted with a virtual assistant on the official Bahamas tourism website today and was told Americans would be able to visit beginning May 30 “unless otherwise noted.”
Zoom out: Most Caribbean islands have seen relatively few cases of COVID-19, meaning the main concern is keeping infections out.
What to watch: In the Caribbean, disaster is always just a hurricane away. But little international aid has flowed to this most-tourism dependent of regions during the current crisis.
The bottom line: Caribbean islands can’t afford to simply wait out this storm. But it may prove impossible to bring tourists in and keep COVID-19 out.
Mykonos has gone quiet. Photo: Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images
Summer holidays are sacrosanct in Europe, and Brussels has joined national governments in issuing assurances that they will not be sacrificed to COVID-19.
The big picture: Europe is home to three of the world's five most-visited countries (France, Spain and Italy) and an outsized proportion of international travelers.
"Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer," EU economic affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said last week, "even if it's with security measures and limitations."
Greece has had far fewer COVID-19 cases than the big western European destinations, and it's particularly reliant on tourism.
For now, several countries have made travel pacts with neighbors without opening their doors more widely.
Bangkok is opening up. But probably not for you. Photo: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
Thailand is also considering which tourists to allow in, and when.
Why it matters: Thailand has shot up the global tourism rankings in recent years, making it the ninth most-visited country in the world and the second-most tourism-reliant of the world's 50 largest economies, according to the World Bank.
Traditional dancers have returned to the streets donning face shields, while hotels are training employees in hospital-style deep cleaning, the FT's John Reed reports from Bangkok.
Where things stand: Tourism in Thailand is expected to drop by up to 75% from last year's record high. It's expected to resume in three phases, Reed reports.
What to watch: Countries will feel far more comfortable once they can reliably verify that incoming travelers aren't COVID-19 positive.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The COVID-19 recession will likely hit tourism-reliant states like Hawaii and Nevada worst of all, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports:
Even for consumers willing to take a vacation, companies and states plan to purposely choke demand — by capping crowds — for safety reasons.
By the numbers: Foreigners spent $256 billion on travel to the U.S. in 2018, three times the total in any other country.
The bottom line: "Normal" looks just about impossible for tourism in 2020. But after lockdown, any trip at all may feel like a dream vacation.
In 2019, Germans were twice as likely to prefer a close partnership with the U.S. (50%) as China (24%). That gap is gone (U.S. 37%, China 36%), according to a collaboration between Pew Research and Körber-Stiftung in Germany.
Why it matters: Perceptions of the world's two biggest powers could be shifting in profound ways during the coronavirus pandemic.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
President Trump declined an invitation to address a virtual gathering of the World Health Organization, which proceeded today with addresses from several world leaders but only a blistering rebuke from the U.S, Axios Jonathan Swan scoops.
The big picture: Trump has excoriated the WHO, saying it's kowtowing to China, and he's frozen U.S. funding for the global health agency.
The U.S.' only contribution was a short and brutal one.
Who'll be in the chair, when he's in the frame? Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty
Iran is among the contenders for worst government response to COVID-19, as Dexter Filkins lays bare in the New Yorker.
The big picture: Before the virus, there was the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet amid escalation with the U.S., and the brutal suppression of mass protests. Discontent with the regime is palpable.
Reporting from Iran, Filkins explores the vulnerabilities of the regime and what might happen when Khamenei, 81, dies.
What to watch: Should Khamenei die, the task of anointing a successor will fall to an aging Assembly of Experts.
Flying kites, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Photo: Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
“I said who appointed him? They said President Obama. I said, look, I'll terminate him. I don't know what's going on other than that."— Trump on firing the State Department’s inspector general, at Mike Pompeo’s request