Special Report

The Most Popular Countries on CDC's Do Not Travel List

The world is in the throes of the latest COVID-19 variant, the fast-moving and highly transmissible omicron version of the coronavirus. The variant was first detected in South Africa in late November and quickly spread around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the variant accounted for 98% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week. U.S. hospitals are once again stretched to their limits.

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the global economy, hitting certain industries particularly hard — including the tourism industry. Countries where tourism is an essential part of the economy have struggled in 2020 as tourism nearly ground to a halt. Tourism has since resumed, albeit not at levels prior to the pandemic, but it is again being hit, and there are fears this will continue. (The pandemic has devastated other sectors as well and is the reason some brands are failing. Here are famous brands that will disappear in 2022.) 

To determine the 25 countries with the biggest tourism industries most likely to be hit hardest by COVID-19, 24/7 Wall St. identified the countries with the highest COVID-19 warning level from the CDC — Level 4: COVID-19 Very High — and ranked them by annual international tourism visits prior to the pandemic. Tourism and population data is from the World Bank.

The overwhelming majority of countries on this list are European, many of which are among the most fully vaccinated nations in the world.

The omicron variant arrived in Europe and the United States at the end of last year and ruined holiday travel plans. It forced some nations, such as the Netherlands, to impose lockdown measures and close nonessential businesses. 

Similarly, Germany demanded a 14-day quarantine requirement on travelers arriving from the United Kingdom in late December, and France banned nonessential travelers from the U.K. that same month. Greece and Italy required proof of negative testing from all travelers, including those from the European Union.

However, there is reason for optimism. Preliminary studies have shown that omicron is less deadly than previous variants. And scientists believe the United States and other nations are nearing the peak of the omicron wave. The simple reason for that is the variant is so infectious it is running out of people to infect, experts explained. 

Those in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and elsewhere have their fingers crossed that the worst is nearly over. (While some may shy away from traveling during the omicron wave, a road trip can be a safer option. Here are America’s most beautiful seaside road trips.)

Click here to see the most popular countries on CDC’s do not travel list
Click here to read our detailed methodology