As pandemic restrictions wane, hopes rise for Europ travel. Swansea, Wales – When Sierra Schade booked a trip from Atlanta to Greece, she hoped that more European countries would follow Greece’s map and open up to American travelers.
She will be able to add Italy and France to her itinerary next month after advising the 27-nation European Union to lift restrictions on US tourists last week. As pandemic restrictions begin to ease, travelers and European businesses that depend on them are eager to get back to normal.
In 2019, before the pandemic, tourism and related activities accounted for 10% of EU GDP.
That said, a return to overseas travel is key to economic recovery, especially for countries that are more dependent on countries like Greece and Italy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Commission, this figure has nearly halved in 2020. There is optimism about tourists returning this year, but the EU does not expect the industry’s growth to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023.
Schade is flexible because he works for an airline, but confusing restrictions have made travel reservations more difficult for the average traveler. And European travelers are still not welcome in America.
Within Europe, governments use a system of traffic lights where green countries are considered safe and red countries are unsafe, but they all do not use the same criteria, which baffles those who want to travel.
The EU has agreed that member states should gradually remove restrictions on travelers from the United States and a small number of other countries, but it is ultimately up to each country to decide how and when to open its borders. Different countries may have different requirements for immunization and COVID testing.
Things could be a little easier, at least for Europeans, when the EU digital COVID certificate goes into effect next week. This certificate certifies testing and vaccination of EU citizens, allowing them to travel between countries without going through quarantine or coronavirus testing.
Jennifer Janzen of Airlines for Europe, Europe’s largest airline association, will help reduce European confusion about travel to a minimum by consolidating “27 different systems for travel into one single system” if the certificate is widely adopted. I expect this to be. She said most Europeans don’t bother traveling outside their home countries as the rules are constantly changing, but a rise is expected soon.
She said Janzen “we’re on our way from a long chaos where no one has traveled so far, looking forward to some sort of recovery for a trip to Europe,” she said. Many businesses that rely on tourists are still in wait-and-see mode.
“There is not much tourism in Barcelona right now due to the epidemic,” said Roger Martin. He and his parents own Bar del Pi, a tapas bar and restaurant in the heart of a Spanish city. He said the lack of young tourists and local nightlife meant much less for business.
Still, he expects the EU health passport will bring more tourism and investment to local businesses, including himself. Not everyone is waiting for a health passport to go on a trip, or epidemic restrictions hamper their travel plans. Irina Gatilova, who lives in the Czech Republic but is not yet fully vaccinated, has recently been tested for coronavirus for a trip to Italy and has also passed Austria and Germany.
Soon after, she went on her family trip to Russia. When she returns home, she knows that mandatory quarantine awaits. Gatilova supports the idea of a health passport in the EU and plans to get it after the second vaccination.
“I’m outside the EU right now, so I’m not very comfortable in hotels or public places where people don’t wear masks without asking for a test,” she said. “Having a mandatory COVID passport for travelers will give you confidence and peace of mind,” she said.
Two-thirds of Europeans plan to travel by the end of November, according to recent data from the European Travel Commission. Eduardo Santander, managing director, and CEO said the European travel industry is feeling additional relief and optimism that US travelers may once again come in.
“We. Travelers are very important to them and to many European destinations that really depend on their market power,” he adds, adding that these travelers often visit multiple countries at once. But Europeans are still unable to visit the US, and Santander said the lack of reciprocity poses a challenge to airlines that do not prefer to return empty planes to the US.
Nonetheless, US airlines are working to add new transatlantic flight destinations according to recent news, which American Airlines spokeswoman Nate Gatton called “a positive development”. For Schade, easing restrictions means a chance to get out into the world again.
“We are both very safe from the coronavirus,” she said, referring to her friend who will be traveling together. “So (this trip) allowed us to do things that weren’t home for the first time.”