Sunday

1st Aug 2021

New rules coming for Europeans' summer travel

  • EU countries will need to work out new rules for beaches (Photo: waldopepper)

Holidays this summer could include social distancing, wearing protective gear and extra disinfection measures, according to transport commissioner Adina Valean.

The EU Commission will discuss on Wednesday guidelines on how to restart tourism safely this summer, and will publish those recommendations "as soon as possible", the commissioner told MEPs on Tuesday (28 April).

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The EU executive's recommendations would come no later than 13 May, another EU source said.

It will come with "particularities for each mode for transport connectivity and travel to ensure the highest level protection for travellers and transport workers," the commissioner added.

"We need to understand the connectivity won't start at the same time in each member state, because it depends very much on the health situation in each member state, and we have health criteria for restoring the travel for passengers," Valean told MEPs in the transport and tourism committee.

"This will include to keep a safe distance, […], cleaning of hubs, and aircrafts, buses and means of transport, wearing protective equipment for both workers and passengers, and more specific rules for airports, airlines, trains and buses," she added.

"We have the paper, we will discuss it, and present it as soon as possible, after I am also picking the minds of transport ministers [on Wednesday] to see what is the thinking in member states is," Valean said, stressing that it was important for the EU to have a common approach.

She added that measures need to be proportionate and not discriminatory.

Europe traditionally comes to a standstill at the end of July for summer holidays, but the coronavirus pandemic has put that into doubt - with fears of a second wave of infections if confinement measures are relaxed.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned recently that Europeans should hold off making plans for this summer - although later added that "smart solutions" can be found.

"I have the firm intention of going on holiday at some stage," quipped commission spokesman Eric Mamer on Tuesday, adding that reopening travel ultimately remains a national competence.

Skipping holidays could have a massive impact on the tourism industry, which has already been suffering under lockdown measures and closed borders.

In 2019, tourism-related spending in the EU reached €427bn, while the sector was responsible for more than 27 million jobs.

The pandemic has put an estimated 13 million jobs at risk in Europe, the European Travel Commission and the World Travel and Tourism Council, non-profit industry organisations, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of trips made by EU citizens are to other EU countries, according to Eurostat, the EU's statistical office.

Tourism ministers on Monday discussed developing common protocols to create safe ways of travel.

Croatia's minister, Gari Cappelli, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said the plans could include a common document, which he dubbed "Covid-19 passports", without going into details.

Cappelli also touched on the possibility of bilateral agreements among member states to accommodate safe summer travel.

Some EU countries, including Cappelli's, would be more harshly hit by losses in tourism.

In Croatia, almost 17 percent of the country's GDP depends on tourism, while it accounts for 20 percent of GDP in Greece.

On Monday, seven member states - Malta, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria - called for dedicated financial aid for tourism in the EU recovery plan.

In the meantime, low-cost air carrier Wizz Air said Tuesday it plans to restart flights from Vienna to 20 destinations over the coming weeks, with the first services running from Friday, AFP reported.

The airline said that it would take several measures to reduce the risk of infection, including disinfecting aircrafts every night, social distancing during check in and boarding and handing out sanitising wipes on board.

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