The long-term effects of the pandemic on tourism for key locations are still uncertain. Some fear that a lack of income could hamper a major overhaul. Others see an opportunity in sudden silence: a chance for nature to recover and a further transition to sustainable tourism.
Some attractions, such as the Great Wall of China, have seen an influx of domestic visitors in recent months, who have replaced foreign ones. Meanwhile, other sites, such as Peru’s Machu Picchu, are still waiting to reopen large-scale tourism.
Here̵7;s how the pandemic affected some of the global tourism destinations identified by the finalists or winners of the 2007 Swiss New7Wonders survey, but by no means by consensus.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Less than two weeks after Italy became the first country to impose a nationwide blockade in response to a new coronavirus, Mexico was to celebrate a two-year equinox at the Kukulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, the ruins of an ancient city built by the Maya.
The event in late March – the illusion of natural light and shadow that throws a moving snake on the steps of the pyramid – usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
But a few days before the ceremony was to take place, the authorities canceled the plan, citing the spread of the coronavirus. A strong outbreak of infections over the summer has pushed many of the 11 million Mexicans who depend on tourism to unemployment and poverty.
Last month, Mexican authorities gradually unveiled archeological excavations, including the Mayan city of Teotihuacan, after conducting temperature checks, mandates and rules of social distancing. All sites run at reduced capacity.
Great Wall, China
By the time many Mexican sites reopened to small crowds last month, the Great Wall of China was already dealing with a return to overcrowding.
As China, the initial epicenter of the pandemic, aggressively contained the virus, domestic tourism filled many gaps caused by the absence of foreign travelers. If in early May, visitors to the Great Wall were still rare, bookings increased over the following weeks.
Earlier this month, the Chinese government newspaper Global Times described crowded scenes during a national holiday when tourists near the Great Wall were forced to “wait and stand in line as they pass through narrow and steep stairs.”
In June, Rome opened many of its tourist destinations, but required the purchase of online tickets to the Colosseum and other major attractions.
Although it was one of the first attractions in the world to reopen after an early blockade in Italy, few tourists came to Rome this summer.
Some were hampered by the perception of Italy as an early “hot spot” on coronavirus, despite the fact that the country has one of the lowest levels of infection in Europe during the summer. Others were unable to arrive due to a travel ban from the European Union for travelers from most countries outside the bloc.
At the end of July, tickets to the Colosseum were still available at short notice, and there were no lines near the usual crowded entrances.
As Italy now faces an outbreak of infections, the country is preparing for tougher restrictions this winter.
Taj Mahal, India
In one of the world’s most virus-infected countries, the 17th-century Taj Mahal in India reopened late last month after closing six months.
Known in India as a symbol of love, the Taj Mahal has reopened under strict precautions, including a limited number of visitors and the necessary masks.
“We want to send a message that not everything is so bad, and you will be safe if you follow the instructions,” said Vassant Suarnkar, a spokesman for the Archaeological Research Agency of India.
India is not yet open to foreign travelers, and businesses fear that revenues from domestic travelers will be insufficient to offset the losses.
“People don’t want to go on vacation,” Manu PV, a spokesman for the Indian Tourism Association, told Reuters. “They are very worried. There is a fear factor. “
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Even the destinations that remained available this year have been hit hard by the sharp drop in visitor numbers.
The Angkor Wat religious temple complex in Cambodia remained open for most of the year. But revenue from tickets from foreign travelers in September fell by 97 percent year on year, according to the Khmer Times.
Statue of Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
When the coronavirus spread in Brazil – while President Jair Bolsonaro mocked it and refused to enter hard curbs, the 125-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro became a reminder of the victims of the pandemic.
The statue was displayed in a doctor’s gown during a light projection on April 12, Easter Sunday, when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Orani House, Joao Tempesta, celebrated Mass at his base in honor of the medics.
“The restoration of Christ [monument] symbolizes the opening of Brazil to tourism, “- said Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, according to AFP.
Machu Picchu, Peru
For business owners in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, the gateway to visitors to the 15th-century Inca citadel, the pandemic has been a major economic challenge. The vast majority of visitors left the country on repatriation flights after the closure of Machu Picchu.
The first opening date of Machu Picchu in July was postponed as the number of cases in the country increased.
Last weekend, the site finally opened for a Japanese tourist who had been waiting his turn for seven months. Boxing teacher Jesse Katayama, 26, decided to stay behind after Peru imposed a state of emergency – the day before he had to see the ancient ruins.
Cute locals lobbied on his behalf, and the Peruvian government agreed to make an exception this month.
The site is expected to start accepting other visitors with reduced bandwidth next month as the country gradually opens up to foreign travelers amid declining cases.