On Monday afternoon, a group of 189 Dutch tourists left the Netherlands to travel to the Greek island of Rhodes for a "test holiday" organised by travel organisation Sunweb and low-cost airline Transavia.
189 tourists, chosen from about 25,000 applications, will stay at the Mitsis Grand Beach Hotel for eight days, and will not be allowed to leave the resort.
The all-inclusive holiday should provide "a wealth of information" for the travel industry on how to safely holiday while the coronavirus is still circulating, according to Sunweb's director, Mattijs ten Brink.
The group of tourists was assembled with the help of a notary public to ensure the most diverse composition possible, with all age groups represented.
The holidaymakers have all had a PCR test and a rapid test before boarding the plane, and they will have to quarantine upon return.
During the holiday, they will have to complete surveys, and two scientists will analyse their behaviour, but they will not intervene. "It should be a natural situation to really build up knowledge," said Marcel de Nooijer, managing director of Transavia.
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According to De Nooijer and Ten Brink, the "test holiday" is meant to provide information on how to enjoy a corona-safe holiday next summer.
"We want to know how we can improve our communication and actions to make the trip as safe and pleasant as possible for the tourists," said De Nooijer.
Additionally, Sunweb is also in favour of organising a similar initiative in Belgium.
"The developments surrounding the vaccines and the great desire of consumers to be able to go on holiday again give us confidence that it will be possible to travel again this summer," the company said in a press release.
"How we can make this as safe as possible for all parties is the objective of this holiday test," the company added. "Setting up a similar experiment in Belgium will only provide more insights, and we would be happy to be the initiator of that."
Currently, non-essential travel is still forbidden in Belgium, but Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Sunday that he expects the ban to be lifted - as planned - from 19 April. However, the ban will be replaced with strict controls on compliance with the test requirement.
The Brussels Times