Italy will allow tourists to enter quarantine-free as soon as this month, the prime minister, Mario Draghi, has announced, saying the country is "ready to welcome back the world".
Visitors who have had an EU-approved Covid-19 vaccine, recovered from the disease or tested negative 48 hours prior to travelling will be allowed entry without restrictions, a tourism ministry source said.
The new rules will apply to all countries apart from those on Italy's travel restrictions blacklist, including Brazil and India.
Italy’s government is racing to save its summer tourism season to benefit an industry badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Few countries are intertwined with tourism as Italy. The world longs to travel here," Draghi, who was appointed prime minister in February, said after a meeting of G20 tourism ministers in Rome on Tuesday. "Our mountains, our beaches, our cities and our countryside are reopening. And this process will speed up in the coming weeks and months."
The new rules will form part of Italy’s “green pass” while it waits for the EU’s equivalent, which is expected to begin in the second half of June. “From mid-May tourists can have the Italian pass ... so the time has come to book your holidays to Italy,” Draghi said.
Italian travel operators have reported a boom in foreign holidaymakers booking holiday apartments this summer in the lead-up to the travel rules being announced.
"We're taking many bookings from Britain and the USA, and it is no coincidence that these are countries where the most vaccine doses have been administered," Stefano Bettanin, the president of Property Managers Italia, told Corriere della Sera last week. He said the most popular places were Sicily and Puglia.
Italy's tourism sector, which accounted for 14 per cent of GDP before the pandemic, lost a total of €120.6 billion in 2020, according to figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council in April.
In Greece, which has also announced it will be dropping quarantine requirements from May 14th, the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, voiced optimism that the situation was about to improve dramatically.
The tourist-reliant country was among the first to state that anyone arriving with a vaccination certificate or who had recently tested negative for Covid-19 would not be required to self-isolate. On Wednesday, 48 hours after outdoor restaurants and bars were allowed to open, Mitsotakis insisted that a drop in daily coronavirus cases combined with 100,000 people getting a Covid jab every day had laid the groundwork for tourism to reopen next week.
“I do expect the situation to improve dramatically over the next months,” the centre-right leader told a digital conference organised by the Financial Times.
Additional reporting by Helena Smith in Athens – Guardian