Europe’s summer tourism outlook dimmed by variants, regulations

LONDON – Chaos and confusion over travel rules and measures to contain the outbreak of the new virus are contributing to another brutal summer for Europe’s battered tourism industry.

Popular destination countries are grappling with rising COVID-19 variants, but the patchwork and last-minute nature of the efforts threaten to derail another summer due to peak season.

In France, the world’s most-visited country, visitors to cultural and tourist destinations were faced with a new requirement for a special COVID-19 pass this week.

To receive the pass, which comes in paper or digital form, people must prove that they have either been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from an infection, or produced a negative virus test. Huh. Use of the pass could be extended to restaurants and cafes next month.

Italy said on Thursday that people would need a similar pass to access museums and movie theaters, dine inside restaurants and cafes, and visit pools, casinos and many other places.

At the Eiffel Tower, unprepared tourists line up for a quick virus test so they can get passes to visit the Paris landmark. Johnny Nielsen, who came from Denmark with his wife and two children, questioned the usefulness of French rules.

“If I get tested now, I can go, but then I may get (corona) in line here,” Nielsen said, although he said he would not change his plans because of it.

Juan Truk, a tourist from Miami, said he had not been vaccinated, but did take a test so he could travel with his mother to France via Spain.

“Now they are forcing you to wear masks and do similar things that have been imposed on you. To me, they are a violation of your freedom.” he said.

Europe’s vital travel and tourism industry is desperate to make up after a disastrous 2020. According to UN World, international tourist arrivals to Europe have dropped by about 70% last year, and in the first five months of this year, they are down 85%. tourism organization statistics

The European Travel Commission said American, Japanese and Chinese travelers do not believe it will be possible to travel and move freely within Europe. International arrivals are estimated to be around half of 2019 levels this year, though domestic demand will help make up the shortfall.

The UK’s Office of Statistics suspended its monthly international passenger data after it said not enough people were arriving “to provide a strong estimate”.

The United States this week upgraded its travel warning for Britain to the highest level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to avoid traveling to the country because of the risk of contracting the COVID-19 variant, while the US State Department has changed its decision to “do not travel” from a previous less serious “rethinking travel”. Alert level raised. Consultation.

The recommendations are subject to continuous review and are not binding, although they may affect group tours and insurance rates. Britain’s warning has fluctuated several times earlier this year as well.

However, some countries are showing signs of a rebound.

Spain, the world’s second most-visited country, received 3.2 million tourists from January to May – a tenth of the amount in the same period of 2019. But visits increased with 2.3 million arrivals in June, the best monthly figure since the beginning. pandemic, although still only 75% of the figure from two years ago.

Spain’s secretary of state for tourism, Fernando Valdés, credited the EU’s deployment in June of its digital COVID-19 vaccine passport to having a “positive impact” on foreign arrivals. That, and the UK move to allow non-essential travel, “allowed us to start the 2021 summer season under the best of conditions,” he said.

The EU app allows residents of the block to show that they have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus.

In Greece, where COVID-19 infections are also rising rapidly, officials have openly expressed concern that slowing vaccination rates could hurt the struggling tourism industry, a mainstay of the economy. Authorities have tightened restrictions for unvaccinated tourists and residents, banning their entry into all indoor dining and entertainment venues.

Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis urged the travel industry to present a brave face.

“It is very important that we do not give the impression that we have lost control of the epidemic,” Georgiadis said last week.

Some countries sparked chaos with last-minute changes to entry rules.

Denmark’s decision to upgrade Britain to its “red” list of countries with stricter travel restrictions has thrown London resident Richard Moorby’s holiday plans into turmoil.

Murby had originally planned to move to Copenhagen in August to visit his in-laws to visit his Danish wife and their two children – just like he did last summer. But under the current rules, Murby is not able to travel separately as he is not Danish. They instead planned to travel together, which they thought would still be allowed after the change – but they announced a ban on non-Dances from “Red List” countries, including the UK, without a worthy purpose. Missed the fine print of, which does not include tourism.

“It was going to be a bit of a non-holiday anyway,” Murby said. But “it went from, ‘We’ll have a nice vacation in Denmark,’ to ‘well, maybe I can get there,’ to ‘I can’t even travel.'”

Meanwhile, the UK government unexpectedly announced that travelers arriving from France will still have to self-isolate for 10 days due to concerns about the beta version, frustrating travelers and angering the tourism industry and the French government .

Emma and Ben Heywood, the British owners of adventure travel company Undiscovered Montenegro, said booking inquiries were rising as the UK government said in the same announcement that it would stop advising against travel to countries on its “Amber List” and self-report. Separation will drop the rule. For returning passengers.

The couple said bookings fell to 10% of their normal level last summer, but they are now at 30% and growing rapidly. Montenegro has a relatively low infection rate and relaxed entry requirements.

“With so many countries and so many different regulations that need to go where, it’s very hard to keep everyone up to date,” Ben Heywood said.

“It’s a total mine. Half the emails I’m fielding right now are people saying, ‘We definitely want to come. What do we have to do?'”


Alex Turnbull in Paris, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, ​​Spain and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece contributed to this report.


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