As the rate of Covid-19 morbidity reduces and the number of vaccinated people increases worldwide, traveling is expected to become easier and more frequent. After the introduction of European digital certificates, people will be able to move more freely within the European Union. Pending the introduction of this certificate, there are different requirements for arrival in different countries, such as negative Covid-19 tests.
The International Council of Airports in Europe has warned of potential chaos at airports over the summer: travelers have to take account much more time spent at airports due to various inspections.
“Essential are those demands that have been put forward by those countries to which travelers go. It is essential to meet all of them, as they vary from country to country while still working on the introduction of certificates. Different deadlines for the validity of Covid-19 tests, different conditions for vaccinated persons, including the different forms of registration to be completed prior to the journey. And if one of these documents is missing, it may be that a person is not allowed on the flight,” said Riga International Airport spokeswoman Laura Kulakova.
These situations are increasingly common at the airport. There have already been 534 cases in the five months of this year where, in the absence of any of the documents, a passenger is not allowed on the flight. This is an impressive figure, given how many passengers are serviced at the airport as a whole, with 248 thousand passengers in the first five months, just 10% of the 2019 figures.
According to current estimates, passenger numbers could rise to 200-300 thousand passengers per month in the summer. The increase in the number of travelers is also observed by tourist operators, said Novatours Chief Executive Leonīds Močeņovs.
“We can see that demand is good. After a long time, people can travel again. We have information that the situation is good at end destinations, but we can conclude that there will soon be relief and an increase in travelers. We plan to open a flight program to Bulgaria from July,” the head of Novatours said.
Močeņovs said that travel is currently more expensive due to mandatory Covid-19 tests. Moreover, if, for example, a person has flown from Turkey [or other third countries] it will be necessary to spend an additional hour and a half after arrival at Riga airport waiting for test results.
Tourism agency Kolumbs is also enjoying an increase in customer numbers, but despite this, some employees are still on downtime, said sales manager Evija Rāviņa. Currently, tourists mainly book trips to Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
"I would recommend that everyone check the information on the home page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where information on all destinations is published, before travelling. For each destination an entry form of the country concerned should be filled in and it also indicates which documents must be obtained in advance. These documents must be in English," said Rāviņa.
The Latvian Covid-19 certificate system for travel is not yet in operation, so residents should prepare carefully for the journey, as well as consider whether it is necessary.