A good time for staycations

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A good time for staycations

Summer vacations are back on the agenda after all, though not everyone's celebrating wildly.

Germany's health minister this week warned of the risks of a renewed virus outbreak in his country after hundreds of European tourists, tired of restrictions at home, spent the weekend partying on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Many headed for a notorious seaside strip known in Germany as Ballermann, to enjoy an atmosphere similar to the English enclave of Benidorm. Things got so out of hand that a few days later, local authorities decided to close all bars in the area for at least two months.

To emphasize the perils of holidaying abroad, the health minister -- Jens Spahn -- drew parallels with Ischgl, an Austrian ski resort that gained notoriety in April by becoming a major Covid hotspot. Many blamed its famous apres-ski party scene for the outbreak. "We must be very careful that Ballermann doesn't become a second Ischgl," he said.

Tourists in Mallorca, Spain, July 16.

Photographer: Joan Mateu/AP

In many ways, governments only have themselves to blame. By reopening borders just in time for the summer holiday season, they've given lockdown-weary households the opportunity to escape to a beach for a week or two. Inevitable, some will be tempted to take the plunge, despite the increased odds of contracting the disease in a more relaxed setting and the fact that air travel was a deadly multiplier for the spread of the virus.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has adopted a slightly different approach to Spahn, in a bid to improve his government's disastrous record in this area. Earlier this month, he urged Britons to do their bit for the economy by taking a staycation this year, rather than venturing further afield. That would certainly suit the country's battered hospitality industry, while making it easier for authorities to control the spread of the disease. Or at least that's the theory.

The fact is, most people around the world are still reluctant to board a plane during a global pandemic, however low prices go. As Londoners head for the West Country or the Lake District, similar trends are likely to emerge across the continent. Whether you live in Paris or Prague, a trip to the countryside has rarely been more appealing.

And popular though they are, "beer streets" like Ballermann have never been the destination of choice for most German tourists. If my friends and colleagues are anything to go by, most Berliners will be happy to just to get away from the city for a while and enjoy a quieter, less stressful life elsewhere.--Andrew Blackman

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Photographer: Patricia Suzara

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