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EU Tourism: Guidelines for opening internal borders, flights, vouchers

The European Commission released on Wednesday afternoon its EU  Tourism recovery package, a so-called roadmap to support the sector and businesses hit by the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU Tourism package contains a set of guidelines and recommendations to help member states gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen. However, it is up to the national governments to decided how they will comply.

The plan foresees gradual opening of borders within the EU without discrimination, hygiene safety during flights, restrictions and the issue of vouchers for those who had to cancel their traveling.

 The Commission’s guidance aims to offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air. As soon as the health situation allows, people should be able to catch up with friends and family, in their own EU country or across borders, with all the safety and precautionary measures needed in place.

The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

EU Tourism recommendations analytically

For tourists and travellers

  • Safely restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls:

Free movement and cross-border travel are key to tourism. As Member States manage to reduce the circulation of the virus, blanket restrictions to free movement should be replaced by more targeted measures. If a generalised lifting of restrictions is not justified by the health situation,

The Commission proposes a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations. The approach must also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if the epidemiological situation requires. Member States should act on the basis of the following 3 criteria:

  • epidemiological, notably focusing on areas where situation is improving, based on guidance by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and using the regional map developed by the ECDC;
  • the ability to apply containment measures throughout the whole journey including at border crossings, including additional safeguards and measures where physical distancing may be difficult to ensure and
  • economic and social considerations, initially prioritising cross-border movement in key areas of activity and including personal reasons.

The principle of non-discrimination is of particular importance: when a Member State decides to allow travel into its territory or to specific regions and areas within its territory, it should do so in a non-discriminatory manner – allowing travel from all areas, regions or countries in the EU with similar epidemiological conditions. In the same vein, any restrictions must be lifted without discrimination, to all EU citizens and to all residents of that Member State regardless of their nationality, and should be applied to all parts of the Union in a similar epidemiological situation.

  • Restoring transport services across the EU while protecting the health of transport workers and passengers:

 The guidelines present general principles for the safe and gradual restoration of passenger transport by air, rail, road and waterways.

The guidelines put forth a series of recommendations, such as the need to limit contact between passengers and transport workers, and passengers themselves, reducing, where feasible, the density of passengers.

The guidelines also include indications on the use of personal protective equipment such as face masks and on adequate protocols in case passengers present coronavirus symptoms. The guidelines also make recommendations for each mode of transport and call for coordination among Member States in light of re-establishment of gradual connections between them.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said that they decided to not include COVID-19 tests prior to traveling – as Greece has proposed
  • Safely resuming tourism services:

The Commission sets out a common framework providing criteria to safely and gradually restore tourism activities and developing health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodation, to protect the health of both guests and employees. These criteria include epidemiological evidence; sufficient health system capacity being in place for local people and tourists; robust surveillance and monitoring and testing capacity and contact tracing. These guidelines will allow people to safely stay at hotels, camping sites, Bed&Breakfasts or other holiday accommodation establishments, eat and drink at restaurants, bars and cafés and go to beaches and other leisure outdoor areas.

  • Ensuring cross-border interoperability of tracing apps:

Member States, with the support of the Commission, agreed on guidelines to ensure cross-border interoperability between tracing apps so that citizens can be warned of a potential infection with coronavirus also when they travel in the EU. This will guide developers working with national health authorities. Such tracing apps must be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cybersecure, using anonymised data, should rely on Bluetooth technology and be inter-operable across borders as well as across operating systems. Interoperability is crucial: EU citizens must be able to receive alerts of a possible infection in a secure and protected way, wherever they are in the EU, and whatever app they are using.

  • Making vouchers a more attractive option for consumers:

Under EU rules, travellers have the right to choose between vouchers or cash reimbursement for cancelled transport tickets (plane, train, bus/coach, and ferries) or package travel. While reaffirming this right, the Commission’s recommendation aims to ensure that vouchers become a viable and more attractive alternative to reimbursement for cancelled trips in the context of the current pandemic, which has also put heavy financial strains on travel operators.

The voluntary vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the issuer, with a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed.

They should also provide passengers sufficient flexibility, should allow the passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions or the travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality. They should also be transferable to another traveller. 

For tourism businesses support and financing, check here.

Travel, transport, accommodation, food, recreation or culture, contribute to almost 10% of EU GDP and provide a key source of employment and income in numerous European regions. 267 million Europeans (62% of the population) make at least one private leisure trip per year and 78% of Europeans spend their holidays in their home country or another EU country, the Commission said in its statement..

Stressing that the tourism ecosystem has been one of the most affected by the heavy restrictions on movement and travel imposed due to pandemic outbreak, the statements cites the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that foresees a 20% to 30% reduction in international arrivals, amounting to losses of between €280 and €420 billion for the travel industry worldwide.

In Europe, the summer is a crucial season for the industry, bringing €150 billion on average to the European tourism sector, with 360 million arrivals.

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2 comments

  1. Thanx for the good article and the prove to EC.

    Could u plz provide a link to
    “During a press conference on Wednesday, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said that they decided to not include COVID-19 tests prior to traveling – as Greece has proposed –”
    also?
    Thanx in advance.