The current outbreak of the novel coronavirus allows travelers to see the most iconic sites in an unusual way
No crowds, no visitors, no queues — how long will this be the reality at the world’s most famous landmarks? With the current outbreak fallout around the globe, travelers might have to wait a while longer before they can admire them from up close again. On the upside, empty streets also mean an unprecedented opportunity to see tourist sites from unexpected angles.
A group of merchants in Japan’s Kyoto saw the silver lining of the global outbreak that has hit the travel industry hard. By now, almost no country is exempt from its chain reaction, with Japan among the first. Before the outbreak, yearly visitors to Japan climbed into the millions — 2019 welcomed about 32 million visitors, from which about one third were Chinese. Now the numbers of both international and local travelers have plummeted.
This might be a great time to beat the crowds and visit a few local attractions! Kyoto starts new “Empty” tourism campaign to attract tourists during coronavirus outbreak via @RocketNews24En #Japan #Kyoto #Tourism https://t.co/ULuPr96PFW pic.twitter.com/93X3j0nf7Z
— Gregor Schmidt (@gregorinsendai) February 18, 2020
The Japanese shopkeepers saw an opportunity and started an “empty tourism” campaign, claiming that anyone who decides to visit popular sites in the country now, will have them all to themselves.
The campaign is also dubbed “suitemasu Arashiyama” or “empty Arashiyama”. Kyoto’s Arashiyama neighborhood is a popular tourist spot for its temples and shrines but in the midst of the global outbreak, it has turned into a quiet area.
Other places in Japan and in the world report decreased visitor numbers
Kyoto is not the only place in Japan reporting on the low numbers of visitors. Empty arenas, amusement parks, shops, and museums are a reality all around the country. Even Japan’s cherry blossom festival taking place each spring has been canceled.
For those who choose to visit the sites despite the current developments, it brings the ideal opportunity to explore the country, including its slopes, from a different perspective.
Went last weekend to Nagano for snowboarding. Surprisingly less people than expected, the alarmism of #coronavirus in #Japan is so extreme is almost empty everywhere and the perfect chance for some improvised trip. Any ideas? pic.twitter.com/py13JMEkVs
— Josep Bautista Photo (@JosepBautistaPh) March 4, 2020
Destinations in Asia were the first to see the decrease in visitor numbers, either because of travel restrictions or because travelers chose to cancel their trips. These destinations also include Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or Bali — two destinations buzzed with the term overtourism in recent years.
— Giles Hewitt (@gileshewitt) March 9, 2020
Venetian bridges and canals remain empty
Europe has been seeing a similar trend of declining numbers, with travelers taking precautions and avoiding affected areas. The usually crowded places — especially those in Italy, such as Venetian bridges and canals, St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Colosseum in Rome, or the Louvre Museum in Paris — have been empty for several weeks now.
— Evan Kirstel (@evankirstel) March 4, 2020
Places in Africa are no exception. As of 2018, Egypt’s tourism numbers were booming. The country’s travel and tourism sector grew by 16.5 percent that year, which was way ahead of the global average of 3.9 percent. By the end of 2019, Egypt welcomed about 13 million visitors and made about $12.6bn in revenue. Nowadays, the country’s famous sites like the Pyramids are empty.
Tourism in the time of #coronavirus – my son and I had the pyramids to ourselves today. Never in my life have I seen it this empty. The horse guide said he hasn’t worked in 6 days & all his tours this week have canceled. Just a couple foreigners & some Egyptian school groups here pic.twitter.com/D4K0Uw87eH
— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) March 4, 2020
With the spread of the virus, more and more sites temporarily close their doors to visitors. If they remain open, it is recommended to keep a safe distance from other visitors or skip the visit altogether.