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European cities top travel openness ratings in new analysis

Madrid, Vienna and Barcelona lead the list.
Image: Bloomberg

European finance and tourism capitals dominate a Bloomberg ranking of 70 global cities most open to travelers, based on vaccination rates, local public health rules and Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Madrid, Vienna and Barcelona lead the list. Of the top 10, nine are in Europe. Mexico City is the only non-European destination to make the upper tier, according to Bloomberg’s analysis. Cities in the Asia and Pacific regions are among the least accessible, in part because of their use of quarantines for travelers and continued public health restrictions.

No US cities made the top 10. The US continues to limit travel from some countries and requires coronavirus testing to enter, which hurt its ratings. Many US destinations Bloomberg looked at still have public health restrictions in place, such as mask requirements or business capacity limits. But the ratings for US cities are likely to change next month, when the Biden administration plans to open travel to most vaccinated visitors.

The rankings show the uneven pace at which the world is reopening to business and leisure travelers. Even with proof of vaccination or other public health measures at borders, like testing, some parts of the world remain difficult or impossible to access.

The highly ranked European destinations allow broad access, often without requiring tests to enter if travelers are vaccinated, and have loosened public health restrictions. They also have high local rates of vaccination.

While the US got a head start on giving residents shots because of its early vaccine purchases from manufactures, European vaccination rates in many cases have caught and passed American levels, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Locations are given an overall grade based on a combination of factors: how difficult it is to enter a country because of Covid-19 travel rules requiring tests or quarantine, the local vaccination rate, and a city’s public health requirements and business openness.

Asian and Pacific destinations dominate the bottom of the list. Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, Sydney and Auckland are essentially closed to nonresidents. Some destinations, such as Seoul, enforce mandatory quarantines for destinations from which they allow travel. In South Africa, Johannesburg allow visitors, but there are more limitations on activities and broad mask rules in place. Popular vacation destinations like Nassau, Bahamas, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, have put local limits on places like bars and restaurants.

Just because travel is easy to some places doesn’t mean it’s happening in large numbers, however. While Europe’s cities top the ratings, flight volume to destinations on the continent remains down significantly compared with 2019, before the pandemic. Of the 70 destinations Bloomberg tracks, seat capacity is up only for Mexico, Greece and the Dominican Republic, while European travel remains down sharply.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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